William Saliba the key to unlocking Arsenal’s potential after Mikel Arteta stance

Despite Marseille’s insistence on exploring a deal for William Saliba, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has made his stance all too clear: the French centre-back is going nowhere.

It’s little wonder the Ligue 1 side are refusing to give up hope on signing the 21-year-old defender, who has sparkled while on loan in the south of France this season. Saliba has continued his ascent to the game’s summit this campaign as his consistently fine performances saw him scoop the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award and earn opportunities on the international stage with the French senior squad.

The player himself is understood to have expressed a desire to return to Marseille next season, but that won’t happen if Arteta gets his way. The Spaniard has adopted a stubborn stance over the centre-back who could become a key component in his promising project next season.

Having proven himself capable of playing at a high level this campaign, it seems Saliba has finally earned himself a shot at slotting into Arteta’s side – even if his heart appears to now lie elsewhere. That could all change though if the Gunners boss finally shows his faith in the Frenchman.

And he can do so by underlining just how important Saliba could become to his ambitious Arsenal project. While some have questioned where the young defender fits in, given Ben White and Gabriel have asserted themselves as Arteta’s two first-choice centre-backs, his return offers the fascinating prospect of a tactical tweak.

Perhaps Arsenal could incorporate all three in a 3-4-3 formation? After all, it’s a system Arteta has used before.

Do you think Mikel Arteta should look to use William Saliba in a 3-4-3 formation? Have your say in the comments below.

Arteta could revert back to a 3-4-3 system in order to incorporate Saliba into his Arsenal setup

Arteta could revert back to a 3-4-3 system in order to incorporate Saliba into his Arsenal setup
Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The Spaniard oversaw great success setting up in such a system during his first campaign as coach. Towards the end of the 2019/20 season, the Gunners beat both Liverpool and Manchester United in the Premier League while playing a 3-4-3 before toppling both Manchester City and Chelsea on their way to FA Cup glory.

Back then, the formation appeared to be Arteta’s preference. But it came with its limitations. While it proved effective against the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal’s inability to beat teams below them when set up in the system proved highly problematic.

Some of the Gunners’ best performances in recent years have come in the system, but an apparent lack of suitable personnel has played a significant part in Arteta settling on a 4-2-3-1 formation for much of the season just gone. This is where Saliba comes in.

While the Frenchman’s return shouldn’t automatically signal a change of system and undo all the good work which has come from the 4-2-3-1 this year – a formation which has, for the most part, seen the Gunners beat the sides below them – it can act as a catalyst for change. In Saliba, Arteta will finally have a third centre-back who possesses genuine star quality.

Having the 21-year-old at his disposal means Arteta can add another string to Arsenal’s bow. The Spaniard will have a greater flexibility to tweak his tactical set-up depending on his opponents and could chop and change his system with confidence.

Reverting back to a 3-4-3 would also see Takehiro Tomiyasu and Kieran Tierney take on the roles of wing-backs – an exciting prospect. Not only would Saliba’s return see Arsenal’s squad bolstered with some much-needed star quality, but it also opens up a multitude of options with regards to flexible formations.

It’s no wonder Arteta has taken such a stubborn stance over Saliba.

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