William Saliba will already be happy with Mikel Arteta after first Arsenal pre-season game

Mertesacker backs Arteta to get Arsenal into Champions League

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William Saliba will have been pleased by Mikel Arteta’s willingness to play a back three in pre-season, which could help his cause of being an Arsenal regular. Saliba is back at Arsenal and impressed in 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday.

The defender is still yet to make a competitive appearance for the Gunners after three loan spells away from the club. The £27million signing shone at Marseille last season, which earned him a first call-up and caps for the senior France side.

Saliba had made just one friendly appearance for Arsenal before, against MK Dons in 2020. So fans were excited to see him line up against the Toffees in Baltimore.

Saliba played alongside Gabriel in a back four in the first half, with Ben White currently unavailable due to injury. But after half-time, Arteta switched to a back three.

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Rob Holding came on into the middle of the defence, with Saliba and Gabriel either side of him. Saliba wants assurances over his game time ahead of the upcoming season.

White and Gabriel formed a successful partnership last term and could again be the first-choice duo for Arteta. However, the use of a back three would only enhance Saliba’s chances of more regular game time.

The 21-year-old played in both a back three and back four at Marseille, so is comfortable with either system. But he wants enough minutes to ensure he can earn a spot in France’s World Cup squad later this year.

Arteta was pleased with what he saw from Saliba and says he has developed in the way he and the club wanted. Arteta said: “He was really good.

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“I think he played a really good game, he looked really composed, straight away from day one he looked completely focussed, he’s evolved the way we wanted and today I think he had a great performance.” Saliba says he has spoken to Arteta and will discuss more about his plans for him this season.

The Frenchman said: “We spoke a little bit on Monday and will speak more. My plan is to fight and work with the team, win as much as possible, and grow more.

“It feels good to be back and starting pre-season. I’m so excited to continue training and playing in the friendly games.

“It’s important to be here with the fans, as well as my teammates. I hope we’ll enjoy some good training and games which is important before the start of the season.”

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