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"He has to come back" - Mikel Arteta hopeful on William Saliba after brilliant Marseille loan stint

Arsenal may not have achieved Champions League football next season, but the progression under manager and former midfielder Mikel Arteta was evident and glaring this season as the Gunners so nearly got back into Europe's premier club competition, and the question now remains whether or not French starlet William Saliba will officially add his name to the growing young cadre of players under the Spaniard starting in 2022-23.

Reports in French outlet RMC - which has been corroborated by Football.London's chief Arsenal reporter Chris Wheatley - has quoted Arteta as saying that he hopes Saliba will come back to Arsenal after enjoying a highly successful loan spell with Champions League-bound Olympique de Marseille.

"He has to come back. He has the experience and the environment necessary to be competitive with us. If he had stayed with us this year, with a match of Premier League a week, with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn't have had half the playing time he had with Marseille, that's for sure. For his growth and what he can do next season that wouldn't have been good. William wasn't with us because he wouldn't have had the playing time to gain experience. That's it, there's nothing else."

But a relationship between Saliba, Arteta, and Arsenal is hardly guaranteed to flourish in the coming months. The French international recently suggested he could see himself remaining at Marseille next season - if not longer - which would suit the agenda of manager Jorge Sampaoli after the Argentine was clear in his desire for the club to secure a first-choice center-back in the summer with Saliba the priority.

With OM in the Champions League, and fellow Frenchman Matteo Guendouzi also enjoying a new lease on life on the south coast of France, Saliba certainly has enough reasons to push for a move should he wish given his status in the OM camp when stacked up against the need to fight for minutes at the Emirates.

Should Saliba choose to move on, it would no doubt signal a blow for the club - and fans alike - as they would then have to add a center-back to the wanted list in north London during a summer period that already has key needs that need addressing.

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