There’s only one place to start this morning, and that’s the news – as dropped by David Ornstein yesterday – that Arsenal and William Saliba have come to an agreement over a new contract. Like Bukayo Saka’s recent renewal, it’s a four year deal, tying the defender to the club until 2027.
There’s no other way to look at this than good news. I’m sure there are some people out there who are cribbing about the lack of an option or some other feature they personally would like, but honestly, this is brilliant. I think most people had some sense of worry around this one, more than with Saka or Gabriel Martinelli for example, and there were reasons for that.
We all know what they were, but there seems little point going over them again now because in the end we’ve secured the future of a fantastic player. Someone who – fitness permitting – is going to be a cornerstone of this side for years to come. We all saw the way his absence impacted the team when he got injured, and the big lesson for Mikel Arteta and Edu is that we need to be better equipped for next season in case he’s missing again.
However, his partnership with Gabriel was superb, and when you consider he only turned 22 in March, he has years ahead of him and still plenty of room to improve. The prime years of a central defender come later than most, the experience you need to understand and read the game can only come with playing time, ups and downs etc. He was outstanding for us, but not flawless, and I do think he can get even better which is an exciting thing to consider.
I have to say, I always felt relatively confident he’d stay. Even with some of the issues he experienced during his time since his signing in 2019, you could see he was more than comfortable here. He looked like a young man who was enjoying his football, who was connected well with his teammates and manager, not to mention the fans who sang his name throughout the campaign. His obvious quality and his contractual situation would make him a target for other big clubs, but I do think a certain residual level of contract trauma in the Arsenal fanbase fed into our concerns. We’ve been burned by bad deals or a lack of deals so often, it’s easy to find your glass half empty when you consider a scenario like his.
Now it’s just about getting it finalised – signed, sealed and delivered – and we have to acknowledge the improvements the club have made when it comes to contracts and retaining our best players. Saka, Martinelli, Gabriel, Aaron Ramsdale and now William Saliba. Some easier than others to complete, but all of them complicated by the fact we’re dealing with top level talent, and they always have other clubs chattering away at them, and tempting offers via the back channels.
It’s a testament to what Arteta has built at the club, it feels like the place to be, and maybe too there’s a little bit of a snowball effect. When Saliba sees players like that commit their futures, it’s a kind of reassurance for him too that his football ambitions can be realised. These lads will be well paid, of course, but they could be better paid elsewhere – especially if you see out the last year of your contract and go on a Bosman.
I also wonder what it might say to players we’re chasing this summer. The best players are staying, not being lured away elsewhere, and if you’re a young footballer and you have Arsenal as an option, it’s going to be a very attractive one. Transfers are always complicated, but it’s much easier to get the right deals done when you’re a club on the up. Saliba staying feeds into that.
I suspect it won’t stop there. Martin Odegaard and Ben White have earned new deals too, and I would be very surprised if we didn’t move to get those done before the summer is out. It’s a far cry from some of the contracts we’ve handed out in the not too distant past, and speaks to the healthy environment that has been cultivated. Not without a lot of work, so again credit to Arteta, Edu and his team for improving an area of weakness in such an impressive way.
Right, that’s it. I don’t think there’s anything else in the world of football worth mentioning, is there?
Have a great Sunday.