Saliba set for Arsenal loan exit amid Rennes talks

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William Saliba Saint-Etienne 2019-20
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The teenage defender is likely to be allowed to gain further first-team experience elsewhere after an injury-hit last season at Saint-Etienne

Arsenal are willing to send William Saliba out on loan before Monday’s transfer deadline.

The 19-year-old centre-back was expected to be a major part of Mikel Arteta’s plans this season, but has yet to play a single minute in any competition.

Saliba joined Arsenal from Saint-Etienne in 2019 for £27 million ($34m) after a transfer battle with north London rivals Tottenham.

As part of the deal, Arsenal agreed to let the defender remain with Saint-Etienne for the 2019-20 season to gain experience before moving to London in the summer.

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But, since arriving in the English capital, Saliba has found game time hard to come by, with his only outing so far in an Arsenal shirt coming in a pre-season fixture at MK Dons.

Saliba hasn’t made the squad for a single Premier League game, although he was among the substitutes when Arsenal beat Leicester 2-0 in the Carabao Cup.

And that could be the only sighting Arsenal fans get of the teenager this season, with talks having taken place over a loan move to Rennes.

Discussions are ongoing, with Arteta believing the young centre-back could benefit from a season playing regularly in his homeland.

Rennes are due to complete the loan signing of centre-back Daniele Rugani from Juventus, however, which may have a knock-on effect on their potential move for Saliba. There are other clubs across Europe who have also expressed an interest in taking the Arsenal defender.

Arteta saw his side beat Liverpool on penalties in the Carabao Cup fourth round on Thursday night to set up a quarter-final tie with Manchester City.

Again, Saliba wasn’t involved, and when pressed on why the young defender hasn’t been used yet this season, Arsenal’s manager said: “He had a year last year where Arsenal loaned him to Saint-Etienne and that was a transition year for him.

"For many reasons, that wasn't the transition year that he needed because he had a lot of injuries, some personal issues and also with Covid and the French league getting cancelled, he didn't have that year.

"He needs that year of transition and we are trying to make the right decisions for him to give him the best transitional year for him to have the player we want in our future."

Saliba had two major injuries last season that limited him to just 15 appearances in all competitions for Saint-Etienne.

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In all, he has only made 32 senior appearances in his career, and Arsenal are reluctant to throw such an inexperienced defender straight into the Premier League.

Speaking about the youngster earlier in the season, Arteta said: “I think William is doing really well, adapting to the country, adapting to our club, and we have to bear in mind that he had a really challenging season last year with the amount of injuries that he had.

“He is going to be really important in our future and things sometimes take some time. And we have to respect that.”

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