William Saliba’s situation at Arsenal “is a strange one”, admits Nigel Winterburn, with the Gunners urged to send the French defender out on loan to a Championship club before he starts questioning his decision to move to England.
The highly-rated 19-year-old arrived at Emirates Stadium over the summer amid much fanfare.
A deal with Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne had been struck 12 months earlier, with the talented defender allowed to spend one more season on loan in his homeland.
Saliba was tipped by many to slot straight into the Arsenal side and become a commanding presence for a Premier League heavyweight.
He is, however, still waiting on a competitive debut, with the youngster among those that Mikel Arteta has frozen out.
There remains plenty of potential in his game but, with another transfer window fast approaching, it is expected that further experience will be picked up outside of north London.
Winterburn believes Arsenal should be looking to keep the teenager in English football, with there a need to “toughen him up” before any breakthrough at the Emirates can be made.
The former Gunners full-back told FreeSuperTips: “The whole William Saliba situation at Arsenal is a strange one. When we signed him, fans were thinking he was going to be a sensational signing for many years to come, but it’s not happened to be like that as of yet.
“We aren’t fully aware of the issues he has faced since coming to London, but it’s clear to see that he is struggling to settle in his new surroundings.
“Maybe Mikel Arteta felt that Saliba wasn’t ready for the Premier League, but with all the issues surrounding Arsenal at the moment, it is hard to keep up with it.
“If he isn’t going to be put back into the squad in January, then he will need to go out on loan and play for another team to get minutes.
“I would prefer for his loan to be in England as he could go to a team in the Championship and it will toughen him up, whereas if he went on loan abroad, it might make him realise that he’s made the wrong decision coming to Arsenal.”
While Saliba is yet to see a minute of action in 2020-21, other summer arrivals have been thrown straight into the Arsenal side.
Experienced Brazilian winger Willian is another of those who was backed to thrive for the Gunners, but the ex-Chelsea man has found the going tough after swapping west London for the north.
“When Willian signed for Arsenal, I was quite happy as we all thought we would get the same Willian that played for Chelsea and that we were getting a very good player,” added Winterburn.
“But it's hard to make that judgement yet, particularly when we are struggling to be anywhere near the level that we thought we would be.
“I didn’t envisage Willian playing as many games as he had so far, which has been a surprise.
“His struggles could be down to a combination of things, but a lot of people have been saying bringing him in limits the game time of Nicolas Pepe, and this is certainly true.
“You can play Willian as a number 10, but more often than not, he plays on the right-hand side so you can only play one of them. Then you also have Reiss Nelson as another option.
“However, it looks as though Mikel Arteta thinks that Pepe and Nelson won’t be regular starters within the first team and be more of a back-up to Willian.”
Arteta will have more big selection calls to make on Sunday when his inconsistent Arsenal side take in a trip to arch-rivals Tottenham.