William Saliba to START Arsenal’s Prem opener vs Crystal Palace as £27m defender finally makes debut after three years

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WILLIAM SALIBA will finally make his Premier League debut on Friday night, three years after joining Arsenal for £27million.

The 21-year-old Frenchman has yet to play a competitive game for the Gunners since being signed by Unai Emery in 2019 and loaned out to St-Etienne, Nice and Marseille.

But all that is about to change at Crystal Palace as Mikel Arteta is convinced that the powerful young central defender is now ready for English football.

Arteta got it firmly in the neck last season when the absent Saliba was named Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year and called up to the senior French national team.

But he explains: “What we have seen of William in the last few weeks gives us every reason to believe that we made the right decision to loan him out again last season.

“I understand why I got criticised but it wasn’t just my opinion that he needed the exposure that we couldn’t give him last year.

“You don’t see players of 19-years-old playing at the highest levels for top clubs. That just doesn’t happen.

“And because we didn’t have European football last season, he would have played very few minutes if he had stayed with us.

“This club made a big investment in William a few years ago because we believed he was a player who could make a significant impact in our team.

“The best way to do that was to give him the pathway to grow and develop and now he looks ready to go.

“I’m really happy with the way he has adapted after spending a year away from here in a completely different league.

“Who knows what might have happened if he had stayed with us last season.

“Maybe he would have picked up an injury, maybe he wouldn’t have played and maybe we could have sent him on loan and it wouldn’t have worked out.

“That’s football. It’s so complicated.

“But we believed it was right to let him spend a year with Marseille and the most important thing is that now we are together again and our relationship continues.”

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