‘Saliba situation is bizarre & loan talk a mystery’ – Lack of Arsenal opportunities for defender stuns Keown

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William Saliba Arsenal 2020-21
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The Gunners are open to the idea of letting the French centre-half spend the 2020-21 campaign in the Championship, despite giving him no minutes

Arsenal’s willingness to let William Saliba leave on loan is “bizarre”, says Martin Keown, with it “a real mystery” why a defender held in such high regard has not been given a chance in 2020-21.

The Gunners finally welcomed a promising centre-half onto their books over the summer.

Having wrapped a deal with Saint-Etienne some 12 months earlier, those at Emirates Stadium were excited to get Saliba settled into new surroundings.

He arrived with a blossoming reputation, along with a £27 million ($35m) price tag, and was expected to be an answer to Arsenal’s issues at the back.

The 19-year-old is, however, yet to see a minute of competitive game time for Premier League heavyweights.

With the likes of David Luiz and Gabriel Magalhaes ahead of him in the pecking order, Goal has learned that approaches from the Championship are being considered ahead of a domestic transfer window slamming shut on Friday.

Keown is bemused as to why Mikel Arteta is prepared to part with such talent when Saliba is yet to be given an opportunity to showcase his undoubted potential.

The former Arsenal defender told talkSPORT: “It’s bizarre. We’ve just not seen the kid.

“You want to see him to see how he performs say in the Championship to see if he’s good enough

“I’m anxious to see. The feeling was that this was going to be the one. Gabriel has come in and been an outstanding signing.

“Maybe they feel he’s too young and want him to go out to pastures new.

“To then loan him out when there was a real problem there last season seems a real mystery.”

Saliba linked up with the Gunners as many were tipping him to thrive in English football.

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He has been likened to commanding Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk, while his former youth coach in France sees similarities between the youngster’s game and that of Real Madrid’s World Cup-winning centre-half Raphael Varane.

Jean-Luc Vannuchi told The Telegraph of Saliba: “A mix of the two styles. With Varane because of his speed and power, and with Van Dijk it is the interceptions, the positioning on the pitch.”

Arsenal’s loyal fan base are yet to see those qualities, although Arteta may yet to decide to keep Saliba around in north London as his side seek to remain competitive on multiple fronts.