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Arteta addresses Barcelona links and discusses potential role for Saliba following Marseille loan

Mikel Arteta has addressed links to Barcelona and has discussed a role for William Saliba at Arsenal following the defender’s loan at Marseille.

Arteta has been linked with the managerial position at Barcelona this week following the sacking of Ronald Koeman at the Camp Nou, though former Spain international and Barcelona icon Xavi now looks set to appointed as the club’s new head coach.

 

Arteta started his career with Barcelona but, speaking at a pre-match press conference ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Leicester this weekend, dismissed suggestions over the vacant managerial position, insisting his focus remains on bringing success to the Gunners.

“That I’m extremely happy at Arsenal and I feel privileged to be here,” Arteta said. “My only focus is here.”

Speaking on the situation at the Catalan club of late, he added: “There’s been a lot going on there over the last few years. Covid affected the club and you have to overcome a situation like the departure of Messi who has been the key player for many, many years.

“All of that takes time. I just hope that everything works out well for the club.”

The Spaniard also spoke on the performances of William Saliba during a loan spell at Marseille, with the defender producing an outstanding display – including a brilliant last-ditch tackle to deny Kylian Mbappe – during the club’s goalless draw with PSG last weekend.

Saliba signed for the North Londoners in a £27m deal from Saint-Etienne in 2019, but is yet to make a senior appearance for Arsenal and has spent the past three seasons out on loan.

Arteta says the club remain in close contact with the 20-year-old and are monitoring his progress during another season in Ligue 1.
“Yes I did. We are always in touch,” he said. “They went to see that game. Edu and Ben (Knapper) the loans coach were there to watch him and to keep a close eye on him and the progress they are making. Obviously he is our player and we do it with all the loan players we have.”

Reports this week suggested Saliba was in no rush to return to Arsenal given the opportunities he is enjoying in France, but Arteta believes there can be a role for the centre-back in his squad at the Emirates.

“I think there is room [for him],” he said. “It will depend on what happens with other players and that’s not a conversation to have now.”

“That’s a decision we will make in the summer. He is our player and naturally that will happen but we have to sit down in the summer and decide what the best step is next.”

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