How Arsenal loanee William Saliba is getting on at Nice

As a makeshift Arsenal back line shambled its way to a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday, you could forgive Mikel Arteta for wondering how things might be going had William Saliba been given a crack at the whip.

His current central defensive options are...well, Rob Holding has started every game since November. Read into that what you will.

Meanwhile in the south of France, Arsenal's £27m signing is starring for Nice in Ligue 1 to such an extent he has just been named their player of the month for January.

The 19-year-old is the second most expensive defender in the Arsenal history (second to Shkodran Mustafi) but is yet to make his competitive debut in north London, having failed to win Arteta's trust for reasons unknown.

Yet if he continues his current trajectory, he is eventually going to explode onto the Premier League scene...or leave for a fee that dwarfs the sum paid for him in 2019.

He didn't have much to prove on his return to Ligue 1, having already established himself as one of French football's hottest prospects prior to his move to England, but has set about doing so anyway.

Even in a struggling Nice team, who have won just once since he arrived in the early days of the January transfer window, he has made quite the impression. They lost 2-0 in his debut against Stade Brestois, yet his performance at the heart of the Nice back three was hailed as 'brilliant' by trusted regional paper Nice-Matin, who used his standout display as the lede for their match report.

In the one win they have managed since the turn of the year, against Lens, Saliba earned high praise from L'Equipe, who hailed his leadership and organisation. They said he 'guides and instructs the defence', and 'gives the impression he has been there for a long time'.

One line even says he is already 'the boss' of the back five, despite only having been there for two weeks at the time.

He is frequently described as the sort of imposing defensive leader that Arsenal desperately lack at times, but Nice's own appraisal of him focuses on other aspects. Confirming he received 44% of the vote - double what second place managed - they hail his composure on the ball and 'ability to defend with a calm head'.

Saliba's influence hasn't been enough to turn an awful season for Nice around. But there is no question his arrival has galvanised their back line, forming the core of a defensive unit that looks as promising as anything the south coast side have produced this term.

For whatever reason, it hasn't quite clicked for him in England yet.

But Arteta will be hoping and praying that when he returns in the summer, this time he can bring his best form with him over the English Channel.

Source : 90min