Mikel Arteta praised returning defender William Saliba despite watching his Arsenal side put on a goalscoring show in a thumping 4-0 pre-season win over Chelsea.
Gabriel Jesus, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Albert Sambi Lokonga scored in Florida as Arsenal recorded a fifth straight warm-up win ahead of the new Premier League season.
But Arteta pointed to the performance of the 21-year-old Frenchman, who has returned from an impressive loan spell at Marseille and partnered Gabriel Magalhaes against Thomas Tuchel’s side, with Ben White and new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko deployed in the full-back roles.
Saliba has yet to make a competitive appearance for Arsenal after being signed in 2019 but Arteta believes his education on loan has been invaluable.
“I am really pleased to see the way he is playing, the way he has adapted to the team, the maturity that he’s shown at 21 years old; carry on doing it,” Arteta said.
“We will keep developing him, he has a huge potential, he is already a top player and we have to make him even better.
Asked if Saliba was ready for first-team action, Arteta added: “He looked ready to me today.”
The Arsenal boss watched Zinchenko make his debut in a 45-minute showing and said he was delighted at the former Manchester City player’s quick transition.
“He was desperate to play and I knew that,” Arteta said. “It was a maximum 45 minutes but you could see straight away he was comfortable. He understands everything that I want, he understands the process and I thought he had a really good game.”
Zinchenko last week became Arsenal’s fifth signing of the summer after the arrivals of Marquinhos, Matt Turner, Fabio Vieira and Jesus, but Arteta admitted he was continuing to push for further reinforcements, with Vieira and Takehiro Tomiyasu still working towards fitness and Kieran Tierney sidelined.
“Obviously, at the moment we have injuries, you can see that we are still a little bit short in some positions for the way that we want to play, but it is something that we are trying to address,” Arteta added.
“We have increased the quality of the team for sure and the level of the squad is obviously something that we want to keep raising.”