Mikel Arteta has finally revealed the real reason Wililam Saliba was sent out on loan twice and made to wait for his opportunity to impress in the Arsenal first team.

The France international joined the Gunners back in the summer of 2019, prior to Arteta’s appointment as manager.

That £27million transfer was predicated on an agreement that saw the then 17-year-old Saliba return to Saint Etienne on a season-long loan.

Upon his return to his parent club the following summer, Saliba was effectively exiled by Arteta before being sent to Nice for a six-month stint in January.

While his reputation continued to sore, his chances of making an impact under Arteta took another hit when he was again sent out on loan, this time to Marseille where he spent the entirety of the 2021/22 campaign.

After another hugely encouraging campaign, during which he won the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year accolade, Saliba was finally deemed ready enough to thrive in the Premier League.

Saliba hasn’t looked back since his competitive first team debut against Crystal Palace nearly two years ago and is now firmly considered as one of world football’s best defensive talents.

Arteta insists he always knew the elegant centre-half possessed the ability to succeed at the top level but admitted the environment at Arsenal during his early days played a key part in his decision to send Saliba back to France on two occasions.

The Arsenal manager has worked hard to transform the culture at the north London club and, having rid the dressing room of several disruptive characters, felt the time was right to bring Saliba back.

‘When he arrived at the club after his first loan, we wanted to look at him,’ Arteta told France Football (via Get French Football).

‘Our evaluation led us to two conclusions: firstly, he wasn’t ready to play in the Premier League in the role that we thought he could have and most importantly, the environment wasn’t good enough for him to develop, for him to become what we imagined and for him to reach the potential he had.

‘I was 100% convinced that he would play at Arsenal but not at that moment in time.

‘I told him that I would not put him in because he wasn’t ready so he had to prove himself elsewhere. He was incredible and consistent and he succeeded in managing other problems.

‘He came back and after one or two training sessions, in a new environment, we knew that, from now on, he could do it.

‘Since, he has proved that brilliantly. His progression and his consistency are incredible. We are very happy to have him here.’