It is vital for Arsenal, their staff and their supporters to try not to get carried away by the promise of William Saliba. It may, however, be one of the toughest tasks they face when the raw ingredients are so promising.
Arsenal have always insisted they are playing the long game with Saliba, that there are no guarantees he will be an immediate starter having returned from his season on loan at Saint-Etienne, that this was a signing for the six years after he joined up not six months.
Extrapolating from 45 minutes against MK Dons is risky indeed, no matter how tempting. A 4-1 win in north Buckinghamshire offers no indication as to whether Saliba is Premier League ready, what his fitness levels are, whether he has the physical attributes to excel in England.
He might have shown a sufficient burst of pace to respond to his sole mistake of the first half – getting too tight to Louis Thompson and allowing the MK Dons winger to spin him and burst in behind – but that gave no indication as to what he can do when it is Sadio Mane or Raheem Sterling beating him with a flick. What evidence there is for that Arteta will have to have gathered during his time in Ligue 1, where to his credit Saliba did perform ably against the likes of Kylian Mbappe.
And yet that does not mean that nothing whatsoever can be gleaned from the fixture. There are signs that Saliba at least has the mental attributes needed, the way of thinking Arteta demands from his players.
That was most evident in the build-up to Arsenal’s second goal, a flowing counter-attack finished off with rapier incision by the Bukayo Saka-Eddie Nketiah tandem.
It began altogether more simply, Saliba picking the ball up on the edge of his box and advancing forward, far enough to catch the attention of MK Dons’ backtracking left winger, who felt compelled to check for danger over his shoulder on more than one occasion.
William Saliba steps forward with possession in the build-up to Arsenal’s second goal during their…