With the Ligue 1 season officially over due to the coronavirus outbreak, William Saliba could be making an early return to Arsenal.
But, what does this mean for the likes of David Luiz and Sokratis, with the promising defender now vying for a place in Mikel Arteta’s team?
The first thing to note is when Saliba can actually play for the Gunners. It is understood that the club had no recall option in the Frenchman’s loan deal with Saint Etienne, which ended on June 30, meaning he couldn’t play before that date.
But, the 19-year-old is registered in Arsenal’s Premier League squad and with football targeting a June return, he could feature when the Covid-19 suspension is lifted.
This puts four central defenders at risk. David Luiz, Sokratis, Shkodran Mustafi and Pablo Mari.
Sokratis likely to be hardest hit by Saliba's arrival
Sokratis will likely be hit hardest by Saliba’s arrival, with the Greek having lost his place in Arteta’s team after being a regular in the early days of his reign as Arsenal head coach.
Following the last-16 FA Cup win over Portsmouth, the former Borussia Dortmund man told the media that he would consider his future if his playing time didn’t increase. The arrival of another a defender at the Emirates could see him slip further down the pecking order and move closer to the exit door.
Luiz and Mustafi will certainly be worried by the return of Saliba, but having formed a good partnership in the weeks before the Premier League was suspended, they will be hoping to have impressed Arteta enough to keep their places.
Brazilian Luiz seems to be top of the defensive pecking order under Arteta, with his experience, leadership and ball-playing ability coming to the fore under the Spanish boss.
Mari sweating on Arsenal future
Pablo Mari will also be sweating on his future having appeared just twice in an Arsenal shirt since his January arrival from Flamengo. The Gunners have an option to make his loan deal permanent, but Saliba’s return means that money could be used elsewhere.
Calum Chambers – currently out with an ACL injury – may also be worrying. Does Arteta see him as a centre-back or a right-back? What does that then mean for Ainsley Maitland-Niles' future?
Saliba’s return leaves Arteta with plenty of options, but the Frenchman will certainly be giving some of the Arsenal squad sleepless nights