William Saliba will join Nice on loan for the rest of this season in a move Arsenal hope will galvanise the £27m signing’s career.
Nice, who currently sit 12th in Ligue 1, will cover the centre-back’s wages and are not required to pay a loan fee. There is currently no provision for a permanent move, with Arsenal still determined that the 19-year-old has a future in north London.
It has been a frustrating half-season for Saliba, who has been restricted to under-23 football after not being named in Mikel Arteta’s Premier League or Europa League squads. Arsenal had failed to secure him a loan move in September, although there were plenty of suitors, and will expect to see him develop with a view to competing for first-team football next season.
Hopes were high that Saliba would make a quick impact after returning from a 2019-20 season back on loan at Saint-Etienne, from whom he joined Arsenal in July 2019. In reality he spent a swathe of that spell out with injury and was further set back by a family bereavement as he sought to settle into life at Arsenal.
Another temporary move to Ligue 1 is viewed as the right step for a player the Arsenal technical director, Edu, said last month has a “good future”, particularly given Arsenal are overstocked with centre-backs. Arteta recently praised Saliba’s “massive improvement”, and said in October that he felt “really bad” for his lack of first-team involvement at a time when the club were short of fit defenders.
Saliba will be the second Arsenal player to depart on loan in the new transfer window, following Sead Kolasinac’s move to Schalke 04. Further outgoings are expected as Arteta looks to slim down a squad whose size he admits is “unsustainable”.