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William Saliba set for new and unique Arsenal shirt number as four Gunners tipped for exits

Arsenal defender William Saliba could be set for a new shirt number at the club as four players have been tipped to leave the Emirates this summer. The French defender wore No 12 during his man-of-the-match performance in the Gunners’ 2-0 win away to Crystal Palace on the opening day of the Premier League, but could take up another number for the rest of the season.

Saliba wore the No 2 jersey for Marseille last season, but picked 12 at Arsenal as the No 2 was taken by Hector Bellerin. The Spanish full-back spent last season on loan at Real Betis and does not appear to be in Mikel Arteta’s plans this season, as former Gunner Kevin Campbell has tipped him and three other fringe players to seal their exits from the club this month.

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“I expect [Pablo] Mari and Bellerin to leave,” Campbell told Football Insider. “Bellerin has been a good servant but there is no point keeping him when his time is up. Saliba wants his number two shirt as well. It is one of those things. It has to happen.

“[Ainsley] Maitland-Niles is one I’m not sure on. It might be a loan move for him. Reiss Nelson might also have to leave on loan. He has looked alright in pre-season but the standards and levels at Arsenal are going up. You cannot carry dead wood. Some of these guys might be used as squad players and may well be the Hale End boys.”

Saliba could change to wear the No 2 despite the season already starting, as players can swap numbers if the previous holder of the jersey has left the club, according to ESPN. The rule was notable last season when Manchester United bought Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus after the season had started, and Edinson Cavani was in possession of the Portuguese striker’s favoured shirt number.

The Uruguayan was not sold but Ronaldo was able to take his number after receiving special permission from the Premier League, and Cavani swapped to No 21 when Dan James was sold to Leeds.

Whether Saliba would change his number this season is another question however, as many Arsenal fans will have already bought a shirt with his name and No 12 on the back, though if that decision is made it is likely that fans will not have to pay to get a new shirt or the name and number changed on their existing Saliba jersey.

Saliba’s Premier League debut on Friday saw the defender recorded a clean sheet and looked imperious at the back alongside Gabriel. “It was very good because we start with a win and a clean sheet,” Saliba said after the win over Palace.

“It was a tough game, but we won at the end, so very good. I’ve waited a long time, but we [did it] in my first ever game, and I am so happy.”

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