William Saliba has found an emphatic answer to questions over his role at Arsenal, having effortlessly adapted to life in north London after three successive loan spells away from the club.
The decision to send the 21-year-old back to Ligue 1 on loan drew heavy criticism, with many questioning the wisdom in doing so when the club were visibly struggling at the back.
But Saliba revealed after Sunday’s clash with Brentford that he ‘feels’ at home in north London, having seamlessly slotted in at the heart of Mikel Arteta’s defence.
Speaking to SkySports after another goal-scoring performance in an Arsenal shirt, the French defender declared: ‘I’m at home here. I like London, I like the club, I like everything. I feel at home here.’
His spells on loan had raised several eyebrows, including from the likes of club legend Ian Wright, who asked why the defender was bought in the first place, after a weak Gunners defence shipped five against Manchester City in his absence.
Arteta’s five at the back included Kieran Tierney, Sead Kolasinac, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Cedric.
Kolasinac now turns out for Marseille, Chambers was sold to Aston Villa last season, and Holding, Tierney and Cedric have lost starting berths in the side.
Wright said: ‘I’m supposed to believe that [Sead] Kolasinac – someone that they’re trying to get rid of – is better than William Saliba?
‘Saliba, who is out on loan and apparently not at the [required] standard.
‘So if [Saliba] is not at the standard to play in this team – and Kolasinac can play – why have we bought him?
‘Because if Kolasinac can play in front of him, what’s going on? Why have we bought him?’
The Gunners signed Saliba back in 2019 for £27million as one for the future, but several impressive performance in France made it clear that he was already a top-class defender, winning Young Player of the Season in Ligue 1 for 2021-22.
However this season he has bee a fixture of the Arsenal side that sits top of the Premier League, impressing enough to appear to have permanently pushed the versatile Ben White out to the right flank to make way.
The 21-year-old already has two goals for the club too, with his first coming against Bournemouth in emphatic fashion, after a first-time finish saw the ball curl from the left of the box out to the top-right corner as Arsenal sped to a 3-0 win.
His second was a header against Brentford on Sunday, and although he suffered the ignominy of an own goal against Leicester, he also has three clean sheets to his name from seven games.