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Mikel Arteta ready to hand William Saliba his Arsenal debut

Mikel Arteta File Photo
(Image credit: Richard Heathcote/NMC Pool)

Mikel Arteta has been pleased with how William Saliba has settled into his squad as he prepares to hand the defender his much-anticipated Arsenal debut.

Saliba, 19, signed for the Gunners last summer from Saint-Etienne but spent the 2019/20 season back on loan at the Ligue 1 side.

A number of injuries curtailed his campaign, as did the early end of the French football season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Saliba also missed out on playing in the Coupe de France final after a disagreement between Saint-Etienne and Arsenal over his training regime.

That saw the teenager begin training at Arsenal’s London Colney campus in July – but he was somewhat surprisingly omitted from the matchday squad for both opening two Premier League wins against Fulham and West Ham.

Instead, summer arrival Gabriel started the two games, despite only completing his move from Lille on September 1.

Saliba could finally be in line to make his Arsenal debut in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup third-round clash at Leicester – as Arteta heeds patience with the defender’s integration into the team.

“I think William is doing really well,” he said.

“He is adapting to the country, adapting to our club. We have to bear in mind that he had a really challenging season last year with the amount of injuries that he had.

“But he is a player that is going to be really important in our future, things sometimes take some time and we have to respect that.”

While Gabriel has impressed since his arrival, Arteta believes the experience and success of David Luiz can be helpful to both the 22-year-old and Saliba moving forward.

Asked how good it was to have someone of Luiz’s stature for the young defensive duo to learn from Arteta replied: “It is great.

“I think he is a really good role model for them, for who David is as a person and as a player and everything he has achieved in the game – I think they are lucky to have him around.”

Arsenal, like many top-flight clubs, will make wholesale changes for the cup tie – but in Arteta they have a man with a fine track record in the competition.

As part of Pep Guardiola’s backroom staff at Manchester City the Spaniard won the League Cup in both 2018 and 2019 – beating Arsenal 3-0 in the former – and he insists the tournament is taken seriously by the biggest Premier League sides.

“I think it is,” he said. “The last few seasons I think this competition for the clubs has raised (importance), there is only one winner in the Premier League.

“That leaves a lot of frustrated clubs and now everybody wants a title and you can see in the last few years that teams have used strong line-ups and the types of finals we have seen in recent years.”