William Saliba could leave Arsenal on loan before Monday’s international transfer deadline, with Mikel Arteta admitting the next few days are a “crucial moment” in shaping his squad for the rest of this season.
Arsenal face a race against time to shuffle their pack, with their move for the Lyon playmaker Houssem Aouar having gained little traction since an initial £35m bid was rejected last weekend. They are struggling to move players out to finance a higher offer and other options remain on the table, with the Chelsea midfielder Jorginho understood to remain among their backup targets. Arsenal would try to sign Jorginho on loan if deals for Aouar and Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey were not completed but that would depend on Chelsea making a surprise move of their own for a replacement.
Arteta made no attempt to downplay the importance of the next 72 hours and admitted things would need to start moving quickly. “It is a crucial moment because in the end it defines the people, the players, the balance and the quality that you’re going to have for the rest of the season,” he said. “We need to make some decisions in the next three days. I think everything has been delayed so much, not just us but probably every team, because of the context we’re in at the moment. We will try to make the best possible decisions and at the end, whatever we have, we go for it fully convinced and prepared to have a good season.”
The 19-year-old Saliba has struggled for game time since returning from an injury-plagued loan season at Saint-Étienne during the summer. Arteta explained Arsenal were examining ways to compensate for his disrupted 2019-20 campaign and it appears likely Saliba, a £27m signing 15 months ago, will spend another campaign away from London. Rennes were interested in a year’s loan although French reports suggest others are also keen.
“[Due to] the difficult year that the player had the plan that we had for him, for the transition year, we could not achieve,” he said. “We are looking at different options to try to have the best possible development for the player and to protect our intentions with William for the future.”
Lucas Torreira and Sead Kolasinac are among others who could depart, with the former hoping a loan move to Atlético can be completed, but time is running out if Arsenal are to complete any of the deals Arteta feels could transform their prospects.
The Brentford goalkeeper David Raya was the subject of several bids from Arsenal last month but has signed a contract extension until 2024. Raya was understood to be keen on the move but Arteta will have to look elsewhere if he wants to add a keeper. It is not out of the question, however, that a deal could be resurrected next summer.
Managing a group that could look radically different come Tuesday has, Arteta admitted, been “tricky”. He said his squad has conducted itself extremely well in the circumstances and responded to his request to be “a little bit flexible”. Back in 2011 Arteta found himself sweating on a last-ditch move to Arsenal from Everton so he is hardly without empathy.
“I’ve been in that position and you can try to be very focused but then you leave the training ground and you get a phone call from the agent, a phone call from another manager, a call from another owner,” he said. “Your head is spinning, you have a family, you’re thinking about moving to a different country, different city. All this is part of your daily life.”
Arteta claims to relish the thrill of chasing deals. “I think it’s very exciting because at the end it’s the tools you have to be able to do your job in the best possible way,” he said. “You can dream about players you can bring, and how you can develop them, and change certain positions to fit into what you want to do. I enjoy it.”