Saliba signed for Arsenal from Saint-Etienne in 2019 to much fanfare as the Gunners touted him as one for the future. However, the 20-year-old defender is yet to make his debut for the club, having only been fielded in two different pre-season games before the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons.
Two loan spells later, Saliba is now showing the level that made him attractive to most top clubs in the year he signed for Arsenal. The young defender is now open to remaining in Ligue 1 with Marseille for more playing time, as he has become a key figure in the centre of the club’s defence.
Marseille, however, will have to fulfill one condition to be able to keep Saliba beyond this season: they will have to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. The top three Ligue 1 teams every season qualify for the tournament with the first two going straight into the group stages and the third placed team having to duke it out in the playoffs.
Marseille currently sit in third place on 40 points with a game in hand and have conceded the least goals in the league (16) as well as kept the most clean sheets. Saliba has been a key part of this achievement with his impressive defensive abilities.
Barring any change of fortunes for the club, Saliba could get his wish of playing Champions League football with Marseille and Arsenal will be subjected to another loss in a time of talent scarcity.
Arteta: Saliba in Arsenal’s long-term plans
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, in September 2021, told journalists that Saliba is in Arsenal’s long-term plans, despite the club spending a combined £70 million on defensive signings Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu in the summer window of the 2021/22 season.
Speaking to journalists in September, Arteta said: “He will come back for pre-season and he will be with us. Hopefully he will come back after playing a number of games and his performance raising and his development progressing in the right way. That’s why we made that decision.
“I know that sometimes it’s difficult to explain or understand after the money that the club has spent trying to bring him in, to send him on loan.”
Arteta may get his wish to count on Saliba next season as Marseille is currently battling a FIFA transfer ban which could prevent them from signing any players, including Saliba, to a permanent deal.
The French club got slapped with a ban for signing Senegal international Pape Gueye after the player signed a pre-contract agreement with Watford. The ban has been appealed and Marseille are waiting to know their fate from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where the case is being judged.
Arsenal offered Luka Jovic loan signing opportunity
Elsewhere, Arsenal have been offered the chance to sign Luka Jovic from Real Madrid on a loan deal, according to reports.
The Gunners have officially been dealt a blow by long-term striker target Dusan Vlahovic, who has made it clear that he wants to stay in the Serie A. Juventus have reportedly tabled a mega money bid for the striker, ending all hopes of an improved bid from Arsenal.
Arteta, desperate to bring in a new striker before the transfer window closes next Monday, has now been offered Vlahovic’s countryman, Jovic as a short term solution to his striker problems at the club.
24-year-old Jovic continues to struggle for game time at Madrid. The former Eintracht Frankfurt striker has not made a single league start this season for Los Blancos, and is reportedly open to leaving the Santiago Bernabeu after an uneventful four seasons at the club.