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William Saliba: ‘I always had it in my head to come back and play’

Arsenal defender William Saliba said his goal was always to return to the club despite spending three years away.

The 21-year-old signed for Arsenal in 2019 after only a handful of appearances for Saint-Etienne. The Gunners paid around £27 million and signed him on a long-term contract.

Tottenham Hotspur also wanted the player, but he chose Arsenal ahead of their north London rivals as they had shown interest the year before.

Saliba returned to Saint-Etienne for the rest of the season after signing for the Premier League club. He joined Arsenal for the 2020/21 campaign but made no competitive appearances.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta left him to play for the under-23s. He joined OGC Nice on loan in January 2021 and spent the rest of the campaign there.

He was with Olympique Marseille last term, where he continued to impress before finally getting his chance in England this season.

Reflecting on his time away, he told the club’s official website: “It helped me a lot because when you are a young player you have to play to improve.

“That’s why I took the chance to improve, make mistakes and grow up as well. It was a good experience for me, and I came back better.

“I didn’t play one single game here so I always thought about that. I couldn’t leave this amazing club without playing so I always had it in my head to come back and play.

“Before I returned, I wanted to play every game but I didn’t know if that would happen. I worked hard and everyone at the club helped me to be a good starter, but it is not finished.

“I have to keep going and training hard because we are all good – even the players who don’t start. We are all at the same level, so that’s good competition.”

Saliba then talked about his ambitions with the club, saying he wants to win the Premier League.

Arsenal are currently top of the league table, leading Manchester City with two points and a game in hand.

Saliba remarked that he is yet to win a trophy and wants one. There are 15 games left, and the Gunners must be solid to finish the job.

Arsenal had faltered in their last four games before a crucial win over Aston Villa helped them to return to the top of the table.

Saliba has been impressive in Arsenal’s season, despite struggling since the World Cup. The France international has played all 23 league games this season, helping his side keep eight clean sheets.

Arsenal face Leicester City tomorrow and will hope to secure a win with Pep Guardiola’s City in hot pursuit.

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