Last Updated on: 15th May 2020, 12:23 am
The 2020/21 season cannot come quick enough for some supporters as they look to get a first glimpse of William Saliba playing in an Arsenal shirt.
Signed from Saint-Etienne last July in a deal worth £27million, the 19-year-old returned on loan to the Ligue 1 side to continue his development.
Earning rave reviews since bursting onto the scene for the French club back in 2018, the physically imposing centre-back has all the attributes required to become a key part of Mikel Arteta’s defence for years to come.
Plenty of Arsenal fans have kept an eye on the Frenchman’s performances for Saint-Etienne this season and they will have been very impressed by what they’ve seen from the youngster.
Hamstring and metatarsal injuries have unfortunately restricted his appearances this term but he has proven his worth when he has played.
You only have to look at Saint-Etienne’s record with and without Saliba in the team to see how good he is despite his tender years.
The Ligue 1 side won just one of their first seven league games, conceding 12 goals in the process with no clean sheets.
The return of the French U20 international then coincided with an upturn in form at the back as they kept three shutouts in the first four games he started as they remained undefeated.
Saliba made a massive difference upon his comeback but what has helped him during his short career so far is that he has been given a chance to develop alongside such an experienced player.
With former manager Jean-Louis Gasset playing a major role after keeping faith with him when he maybe could have protected him and taken him out of the firing line, Saint-Etienne veteran Loic Perrin has proved pivotal to his progression.
A one-club man having started his career with Sainte back in 2003, the 34-year-old has a wealth of experience of playing in the French league and he has been the perfect man for Saliba to play alongside in either a flat back four or a three-man defence.
Known for his understanding and reading of the game, the opportunity to play alongside the captain for another year after his return to the club on loan was only a good thing for the Frenchman as he could develop these areas of his game.
All young defenders need a more experienced head to guide them along and show them the way to ensure that they keep on progressing and become the best defender that they can possibly be, with Perrin that man for Saliba as he will not let his standards drop one bit.
Perrin has had a big influence on his fellow defender so far and the centre-back will need a similar figure at Arsenal to ensure that his rise continues and he becomes one of the best centre-backs in the game.
Given Saliba’s age and the fact he is new to the country, David Luiz will have a vital role to play once he walks in through the door at the Emirates as he can take over from Perrin and become a key figure in his career.
Despite a poor start to life in north London following his move from Chelsea back in August, the Brazilian’s displays have improved dramatically under Arteta and he is a key part of the team’s defence.
Whether or not he proves to be Saliba’s long-term partner as the head coach looks to build a team for the future, Luiz will act as a mentor for the young player due to his experience of playing at the highest level.
It’s a role he had during his time across the capital at Chelsea as he helped fellow defender Andreas Christensen make the step up to the first team after returning from a loan spell at Borussia Monchengladbach.
“David makes it easy for everyone,” explained the Dane in an interview with the Daily Mail in 2018. “He’s a little bit like John Terry. On one of my first visits, David was here and I wanted to take a picture with him.
“He did this weird face to the camera. He’s just the same now. He’s a big character. You feel his vibe and he wants to succeed.
“He’s made it a lot easier for me to come back from the loan spell and into the team.
“He wants the best for the club and for everyone in it. You can feel that every day. That’s just the way he is.”
The fact Luiz can also speak French will also help Saliba both on and off the pitch as he looks to adapt and hit the ground running in the Premier League
There is no doubting that the Frenchman can flourish once he features in the Premier League for the first time but fans will have to be patient as it can take quite a while for foreign players to settle into their new surroundings.
Plenty of experienced stars struggle to adapt to the pace and intensity of the top flight initially and it takes some a fair while to recapture their best form.
However, having Luiz there alongside him at the Emirates can only be a good thing for Saliba and he may turn out to be the man to take on Perrin’s role and ensure that the player not only meets expectations in the capital but also exceeds them.