William Saliba is being touted as the immediate fix that this Arsenal defense needs for the now and the future. But we don’t have to oversell it.
It was unavoidable that William Saliba would become something of a messiah. Arsenal went and spent £27m for the guy, only to leave him on the table for a year and collect on him this coming summer.
In the span of the year he has spent on loan, we have seen this defense go through the gauntlet. They were horrible, they were literally hard to watch. Then they moved on under Mikel Arteta and became a formidable fortress that could stand up to any attack.
It has left the mind to wonder about what might happen if we get young, long-term solutions into this defense now and stop living off of fill-ins and stopgaps.
William Saliba is going to be sliding into this team at the perfect time to have it all built around him. With Calum Chambers out injured, Rob Holding struggling and the long-term futures of Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz and Sokratis in doubt, Saliba could be the guy.
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But that’s a ton of pressure, a ton of expectations, and it’s all unnecessary.
It’s highly likely that the Gunners will see a high turnover this summer. We will probably sell quite a lot of the current stock, including potential all three of the questionable defenders listed above, as well as cash cows like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
That money has to go somewhere, and it would be hard to imagine a future where that money isn’t at least partially dedicated to landing another defender in addition to the arrival of William Saliba.
Most likely, it will go towards a defender who is more sensible to turn to as “the guy.” Someone like Dayot Upamecano or Samuel Umtiti, for instance, who have proven themselves at the top level and who won’t need as much time to acclimate. Also, the risk of a let-down isn’t nearly as high.
If we bank on Saliba, what happens if he struggles to acclimate? We stagnate. But if we invest the money in an Upamecano or in an Umtiti, then Saliba can become a sort of Matteo Guendouzi, who is there when we need him, but who is allowed to grow free of overbearing expectations.
The safer option is to invest outside of Saliba, while still retaining what Saliba could bring. Best case, Saliba and Option A both pan out, then we have our defense set for years, with Chambers ready to grow into a powerful third wheel.