William Saliba has not been included in the 25-man Europa League squad.
Which means he’ll likely leave Arsenal on loan for a Championship club before the domestic window closes in a few days’ time.
Discussing whether that’s the right move for him and for the other parties has been done, so instead lets work on the basis that he is going to leave. right, with that settled, where should he then go?
Most clubs in the second tier would snap up the opportunity to take on a £27m defender temporarily. Some may have similar concerns to Mikel Arteta (that he’s not ready for English football) but the Premier League is a different kettle of fish.
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That does not mean the Championship is not competitive. In fact, it’s one of the most grueling, arduous football campaigns in Europe, let alone England.
Working on the basis that Saliba does drops down a division, where would be best suited for him? Here are four options.
Most peoples’ favourite to secure promotion this season, the added luxury of remaining in London would suit both Saliba and Arsenal.
Thomas Frank’s side play a possession-based style that sets up in a 4-3-3 but has the fluidity to expand and fluctuate over the course of 90 minutes. As Arsenal have become known for during the Arsene Wenger years, and also in the current regime, passing triangles become essential to drawing sides out of position and making inroads up the pitch.
An expansive side with a heavy emphasis on pressing high and building out from the back, it’s the kind of environment that would suit Saliba. Someone who enjoys driving with the ball from defence, the Bees’ defenders are also heavily encouraged, if not implored, to do so.
He would, however, need to displace one of either Pontus Jansson or Ethan Pinnock, who are the regular starters, but the sometimes erratic nature of the Swede may help his case.
For Steve Cooper, it’s all about playing attractive football. Winning the England Under-17’s World Cup with a style that is hoped to transfer up into the senior fold of the national team, he’s brought that approach with him to Wales.
His Swans side are built heavily on structure and organisation, working meticulously on countless passages of play during training sessions. Drilling into his players a sense of expectancy, that they will almost envisage how certain matches will play out.
Control is key, and the above rings true with Arteta, too. He has spoken before about wanting his players to be able to dictate matches and foresee the outcome, so from a philosophical point of view, the Liberty Stadium would fit.
However, Swansea do play a three-man defensive shape with four midfielders and a roaming attacking No 10, which is not akin the what Arteta utilises now, nor is hoping to further down the line.
The close-to-home nature of this move again comes into play, but even more so than with Brentford, as Arsenal and Watford’s training grounds literally sit side by side.
It’s been an acceptable start to the season for the Hornets results-wise, although their two goals from the opening four matches of the Championship season doesn’t set the pulses racing. Still, it’s manager Vlandimir Ivic’s first season in the post and his methods will take time to embed on his squad.
What is his approach? Well, consistent of the current trend in the list so far, it’s attacking football that starts from the back. Ben Foster is told to start all their moves from him, in a three-man defensive setup that incorporates wing-backs and two strikers. It could work for Saliba.
Furthermore, with plenty of Premier League experience in their squad, Watford would offer a solid option environment for the Frenchman’s development.
Unsurprisingly, another former Premier League alumni feature. Bournemouth, crippled by woeful recruitment for the last few years, bid farewell to the top-flight and their manager before the new season started, but the new man at the helm fully endorses the previous philosophy of the former boss – he was Eddie Howe’s assistant, in fairness.
It will be much of the same for the Cherries this season, utilising a style that is built on short passes in their own half that then spring into aggressive surges down the flanks.
Despite losing Nathan Ake in the summer, Bournemouth are yet to sign another central defender and are in desperate need of reinforcements. As it is, they’re playing full-back Diego Rico on the left of a back three.
A club who should be there or thereabouts challenging at the top of the Championship table, the likelihood of winning more matches than not will provide the confidence boost that Saliba needs.