Wright says Arteta deserves ‘a lot of credit’ for nurturing ‘special’ Arsenal talent

Will Ford
Ian Wright during ITV coverage

Ian Wright has praised Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta for his handling of “special” talent William Saliba.

Saliba named the Young Player of the Year in Ligue 1 last season having been been sent out on loan from Arsenal for the third time since his £27m move from Saint-Etienne in 2019.

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The 21-year-old finally made his debut in Arsenal’s opening weekend win over Crystal Palace on Friday night and showed no signs of needing time to adapt to the Premier League.

On Saliba’s first appearance for the Gunners, Arteta said: “At 21 years old, debut in the Premier League, against this opponent, against physical players – and resolve that situation the way he has done it.

“With that composure, with that calmness and with that presence. So big credit to the boy.”

Arteta and director Edu were criticised by some last season after they opted to allow Saliba to leave on loan once again, compounded by the Frenchman’s impressive displays for Marseille which led to call-ups to the national team as Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League.

But Wright believes the decision to include the centre-back in their squad last season has been justified after his standout display in the 2-0 at Selhurst Park.

Wright said: “Mikel and Edu have got to take a lot of credit for what they’ve done with this guy.

“This guy is someone we’ve always thought would be special. Even when they sent him out on loan there were fans calling for him to come back. He’s a full international now, he looks composed, calm, he’s got great pace.

“It’s a decision that was magnificent from Arsenal. It would have been easy to bring him back last year but they gave him the extra season and now he looks like he’s been playing in that position for years.

“At 21, to go to Crystal Palace for the first game of the season and play like that… you don’t want to get carried away but that’s some performance.”

Saliba took to Instagram after his Man of the Match display to express his delight at making his first appearance for the Gunners, while thanking the fans for their support.

He wrote: “I’m really happy and proud to play my first game for this great club. Thanks a lot to the fans for your support.”