William Saliba at Arsenal - what has gone so wrong?

Arsenal hoped that they had signed a world class centre-back of the future when they agreed a deal potentially worth up to £27m for William Saliba in the summer of 2019.

He was only 18 at the time, but he had already made the breakthrough in Ligue 1 with Saint-Etienne, somewhat mimicking the career path of Raphael Varane, whose emergence as a teenager at Lens in 2011 led to a swift transfer to Real Madrid...and look how that turned out.

Saliba emerged at Saint-Etienne in 2018 | FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/Getty Images

But 18 months on from the Gunners landing Saliba’s coveted signature, he looks more likely to leave this month than thrive in the long-term as an Arsenal player.

Reports in France have suggested that a meeting this week between the club and Saliba’s camp has yielded an agreement that he can leave either on loan or permanently in January. It has also been claimed in his homeland that he willing to drop his weekly salary by almost half – from around £40,000 to the equivalent of just over £20,000 – in order to return to Saint-Etienne.

In short, it has gone badly wrong for Saliba.

It hasn’t been a smooth road from the very start. Once he had signed for the Gunners, he stayed at Saint-Etienne on loan for the 2019/20 season in the hope that he would continue playing regularly and wouldn’t have had that opportunity at Arsenal for at least a little while.