Despite a slow summer transfer window, Arsenal have landed a center-back for the future.
The north London side announced the arrival of French starlet William Saliba, 18, from Ligue 1 outfit Saint-Etienne on a “long-term contract”. The highly-rated defender will have to wait for his Emirates Stadium debut, however, as he’ll spend the upcoming season on loan with his former club.
“We’re delighted William is joining us,” manager Unai Emery told the club’s official website. “Many teams wanted him but he decided he wanted to come to us and be a part of our future. He will stay in France next season for more experience and then we look forward to him joining our group.”
It’s believed the Gunners shelled out $33.6 million for the France youth international and beat Tottenham Hotspur to the signature.
Saliba made a name for himself last season in League 1, featuring 16 times – 13 starts – for his boyhood club, specifically in the latter stages of the season. It’s expected that the upcoming campaign will call for Saliba to feature heavily for Les Verts and gain further experience before joining the Gunners during the summer of 2020.
With a long-term vision in mind, Saliba’s arrival is hope for a more optimal center-back situation at Emirates Stadium, which Emery desperately failed to have last season. The Spanish boss fielded mainly compatriot Laurent Koscienly and Sokratis Papastathopolous as the central duo in the backline, with Shokdran Mustafi finding himself on the bench more often than not, 23-year-old Rob Holding injured and Calum Chambers on a season-long loan at Fulham.
Saliba becomes only the third signing of a sluggish summer for Arsenal, who have added midfielder Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid and 18-year-old winger Gabriel Martinelli from Brazilia side Ituano. Although, Arsenal can decide to spend more than the reported $60 million transfer kitty they have with about two weeks left in the transfer window.
It is pretty typical of Arsenal to finally sign a new center back, but then send him straight out on loan…