Mikel Arteta braces William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes on expectations ahead of debut seasons


Heading into the new Premier League season, Mikel Arteta will face the unique task of having just three of his eight centre-backs available for selection, heaping responsibility on the shoulders of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes.

The pair are yet to make their competitive debuts for the club after their moves from Ligue 1, but alongside Rob Holding, they are the only fit natural centre-backs at the Spaniard’s disposal.

David Luiz [neck spasm] and Sokratis [calf strain] were the latest defenders to join the injury last just days before the start of the new season. Pablo Mari it has revealed is back running as he continues to eye an end of September return to full training, whereas Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers aren’t as far in their roads to recovery.

Whether Arteta sticks with the back three system which was the foundation for Arsenal’s success last season and in pre-season or not, focus will turn to Saliba and Gabriel but the now-first team manager, wanted to stress the pair will need time to adjust to their new surroundings.

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“I think it’s going to take him [Saliba] some time to adapt to our way of playing but as well to get adapted to the language, the rhythm, the physicality of the country,” Arteta began.

“As well we have to bear in mind that he didn’t play much football last season with all the injuries he had. So, I think it will be a process that we have to be patient, picking the right games with the right environment and trying to grow because he [Saliba] has a really good potential.

“Everyone was saying that we had too many central defenders and it’s a funny case right now that it’s the position we are short at the moment with all the injuries.

“But I’m hopeful in the next few weeks that situation will resolve and we’ll be in a stronger position.”

Just a few yards behind Saliba and Gabriel, this pre-season has been dominated with the decision Arteta will make in regards to his first choice goalkeeper.

On Friday [September 11], football.london revealed that Emi Martinez had a possibility of missing out on a place in the matchday squad at Craven Cottage. This was following the interest in his services from both Aston Villa and Brighton. Both clubs have made offers with acceptable personal terms to the 28-year-old who is looking for regular game time but no clubs have met Arsenal’s £20million valuation.

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As important to the defence is the consistent presence of a goalkeeper but whether it’s Martinez or Bernd Leno in goal, the Spaniard admitted his main concern is with how his new centre-back adapt to life in English football.

“Both Bernd and Emi have that presence. I’m not concerned about that,” he added.

“I’m more concerned about the central defenders that join our country and they can’t talk the language properly because communication is a big thing at the back to guide the players in front of them but we are on it. That takes some time and we will get it as quick as possible.”





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