Not exactly what we had in mind, was it?
A painfully drawn out transfer saga last season (which ones don’t with Arsenal?) culminated with Saint-Étienne getting their way, both financially and sporting-wise, as William Saliba joined for £27m but went straight back on loan to the Les Verts for the 2019/20 season.
Considered a necessary sacrifice in order to obtain a target the club were hell-bent of acquiring, we were all left to wait 12 months to see him don red and white. Instead, pieced together snippets of Coupe de France ties and bit-part analysis on his game was all we were left to salivate over.
Even seeing him turn up at the Vicarage Road away end to witness a defensive horror show surrender a two-goal lead felt like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey. He was there, we thought we needed him, but we couldn’t have him.
Seeing Mikel Arteta feeding him tips and moulding him into his methods got the pulses racing. A 45-minute cameo at MK Dons was supposed to be spark to ignite a defensive revolution. Saliba was going to turn our damp, leaky back line into a 1990 Chateau Petrus Pomerol.
Yet he were staring down the barrel of another potential loan move away. This wasn’t the plan. We still don’t have any photos of him in an Arsenal kit to use from the sodding image bank.
How disheartened should we feel? I had hopes as high as anyone. Desperation, if you like, that we’d turn a defensive corner with Saliba as the anchor. Heaven knows we needed it. It was supposed to be him. Saliba’s personal issues must also be taken into account.
Arteta hasn’t been sucked into the hype. Watching him on the training ground has been enough to convince him it’s too soon. It’s a decision that will ask questions of the recruitment department. Why spend so heavily on a player who needs 24 months before he can be bedded into the side?
There are questions to be asked there, but I for one am just grateful he didn’t get thrust into the back four under Unai Emery at a torrid period of defensive dejection and set his progress back even further.
Can we survive a season without Saliba? For the sake of his career, we’ll have to. Good things come to those who wait, after all.