William Saliba’s declaration that he intends to return to Arsenal and fight for his place next season can help Mikel Arteta move even closer to assembling the ideal first-team squad size during the summer transfer window.
Despite the Spaniard stating that the France international “has to come back” following a successful loan spell with Marseille, rumours of a permanent move to the Ligue 1 outfit continued to persist and gathered momentum with the club permitted to make signings this summer with their two-transfer window ban suspended until October.
But to the delight of Arteta and many Arsenal supporters, Saliba has moved to end any uncertainty regarding his future: “I belong to Arsenal. I still have two years left. I will be back with Arsenal,” he declared in an interview with Telefoot. “I have played zero matches, and I still want to show them my true face and have the chance to play for these fans and this great club.”
Assuming that Saliba is reintegrated into the Arsenal squad next season, that may rule out the prospect of another central defender being added to the ranks and taking into consideration what Arteta said about plans for the summer window, it’s an indicator of how many signings supporters can expect before the end of August.
“If you can financially afford it and we don’t have to do the turnaround in the squad that we’ve had to do, if you ask me what I want it’s 22 outfield players and three goalkeepers,” he said. “You have to come a long way in the aspects that you see on the pitch, it’s a lot of things that have to be put in place, and that takes time.”
So, 22 outfield players and three goalkeepers would be the perfect Arsenal squad size for Arteta. With Matt Turner likely to replace Bernd Leno, he can be the back-up to Aaron Ramsdale, whilst Arthur Okonkwo or Karl Hein could act as the third-choice goalkeeper next season.
With that said, following confirmation of Mohamed Elneny’s contract extension and Alexandre Lacazette’s imminent release, Arsenal currently have 24 outfield first-team players under contract for next season. This number will increase by one when Eddie Nketiah signs his new long-term deal.
This means Arteta is already over the limit for his ideal squad size. But with Hector Bellerin, Pablo Mari, Auston Trusty, Nuno Tavares, Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Nicolas Pepe all tipped to depart either on loan or permanently this summer, the Gunners could have 17 or 18 senior outfield players left if this scenario plays out.
As a result, between four to five signings would be required for Arteta to get his wish of 22 outfield players in his Arsenal squad for next season. Although, the Spaniard could promote one or two academy starlets such as Charlie Patino and Miguel Azeez to the first team in order to boost the numbers.
As this summer will see Arsenal look to sign a striker – with Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus thought to be the main target – a central midfielder and full-back amid links to Youri Tielemans, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Aaron Hickey, Arteta certainly has his priorities in place to ensure his squad is well equipped to compete in the Premier League and in Europe next season.