Living in the north, we largely have to judge Arsenal fans by what we see on Twitter. And it leaves us with the impression that Arsenal fans are fickle, prone to extreme giddy and gloom, argumentative and entirely divided on whether Mikel Arteta and his process should be trusted or gender watched. of cynicism that should be reserved for conspiracy theories involving poles and potatoes.
Oh and for three years they have been obsessed with William Saliba.
Last season those in the #Artetaout camp were armed with heavy French artillery as Saliba thrived in Marseille, with every man-of-the-match performance a hand grenade thrown and every French call a missile launched towards north London.
Saliba being named League One’s Young Player of the Year on the same day Arsenal lost fourth place with an abject defeat at Newcastle United was nothing short of delightful. Some “fans” reveled in the juxtaposition.
But after Saliba picked up another pre-season victory in Orlando in the early hours of Thursday morning, Arteta smiled when asked about the Frenchman: “We always have a plan, and when we have to execute, that’s another story. And football is a really funny game, but we’re really happy to have it.
Few will believe the ‘plan’ was always to put a £27million signing through the humiliation of playing with the youth team before sending him away on his second and third loan spells in France, but whether it’s a ‘plan’ or just a happy accident, the biggest weapon used against the idea of Arteta as an elite manager over the past 18 months is about to become his biggest triumph.
Football is a really fun game and a blind spot has become a blinding decision.
“If he had stayed with us this year, with one Premier League game a week, with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn’t have had half the playing time he had with Marseille, that’s for sure. “, is an argument that makes a degree of sense, though it might have carried more weight had it been made last summer rather than this one, when the benefit of hindsight makes it look like a master.
But those quibbles and questions will be forgotten in time if Saliba is as good as Arsenal Twitter would have you believe; whether he becomes a first-team stalwart or a £50million first-selling man for Arsenal, history will show that Arteta and Edu matured him in France like fine cheese.
The clues were there in Orlando as to how Arteta will now make room for Saliba, with White playing the second half at right-back. This is not a new concept; White started three Premier League games there last season – including a 4-2 win over Chelsea – and was unbeaten.
This would allow Arteta to play his best three centre-halves, with either Kieran Tierney or Oleksandr Zinchenko coming in at left-back to make for a really quite impressive back-four.
The only thing that has changed on Arsenal Twitter is that they are now cooing about Saliba in an Arsenal shirt. Some would say he thrived despite Arteta, but a growing number will praise the Arsenal manager for taking an armed approach to his development and emerging with a 21-year-old defender with maturity and composure at the beyond his years.
It only took three loans and around three million tweets.
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