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Paul Merson fears William Saliba will have to be patient when he joins Arsenal in the summer after Mikel Arteta strengthened Arsenal’s defence during the January transfer window.
The Gunners beat of significant competition from Tottenham to sign the highly-rated centre-back in the summer after agreeing to pay Saint Etienne an initial £27million, but were forced to loan the player back to the French club as part of the deal.
Arteta has since replaced Unai Emery in the Arsenal hotseat and bolstered his backline last month with the loan signing of Pablo Mari who he knew from his time at Manchester City.
Arsenal have the option to make the Spaniard’s move a permanent one at the end of the season and Merson believes that could cause a ‘conflict’ if Saliba is forced to bide his time.
He told the Daily Star: ‘The defence is going to take time. He’s brought two defenders in with Cedric and Pablo Mari, and he’s got William Saliba coming in from France in the summer.
‘Part of me wonders whether he wanted Mari because Saliba isn’t his signing, and there could be some conflict there. But he’s made good signings.’
Arsenal have undoubtedly improved defensively under their new manager, but the goals have dried up for the likes of Alexandre Lacazette who hasn’t scored since Arteta’s arrival.
Asked if he has scarified attacking flair for defensive stability, Arteta said on Friday: ‘I don’t think so. I think we have to generate some defensive stability, but not by defending deep.
‘I don’t like that. It’s by defending high and pressing the opponent as much as possible. But the process – together as many times as possible in the most efficient way – has to be done properly from here.
‘If not in two passes when you arrive there, that transition is impossible to control because you are too far from the opponent.
‘So we need to do that well first to after be able to generate and sustain our attacks as many times as possible during the games.’