Let’s start with the big news, William Saliba has signed a new contract with the club. His new deal will keep the best young central defender in Europe at Arsenal until 2027, and Mikel Arteta says:
To have William extend his contract with us was something we have wanted to do for a long time. William proved last season just how good and how important he is to our squad.
The ability he has at his young age of just 22 is exciting, and there is of course so much more room for development with any player at this stage of their career. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with William in the years to come.
The player himself said it was an ‘easy’ decision to stay, which is nice to hear, because there have been some ups and downs during his time here. Signed in 2019 for a huge fee (back then) for a player of such limited experience, he had to go on loan to develop, but things weren’t always handled as well as they could have been. However, he made the most of his spells back at former club Saint-Etienne, as well as Nice and Marseille.
When he came back last season, he wasn’t just ready to challenge for a place in the team, he was 100% ready for the Premier League, and at 21 that’s not true of very many centre-halves. I’ve always been of the opinion that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with using loans to develop a young defender, and I think we can now say it has worked our perfectly for everyone. There was a worry, let’s not ignore that. With a year left on his deal, he had overtures from basically every big club – not least PSG who pushed hard for him – and it put him in a strong position to negotiate with Arsenal or take a chance elsewhere.
But, when you see the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Aaron Ramsdale, Bukayo Saka, and your centre-half partner and good off-field friend Gabriel Magalhaes commit to new deals, it helps. So too does the fact you’re pledging your future to a team and club on the up, where the feel-good factor is high right now, and players feel like they realise their footballing ambitions. That’s been the biggest part, I’m sure.
On that, Saliba was asked what he thinks the team can achieve, and said:
I think we can achieve everything. Of course, it’s easy to say this, but we have the coach, we have the character, we have the players and every year the team gets stronger. We have better players with a good mentality.
We have a good experience from the last season as well. We know that the season is so long. So we are confident and we know we can do something good at this club.
Let’s hope so. Our chances are better now that we’ve got Saliba fit again, and the fact that he’s signed a new contract is just fantastic news. When there’s criticism to be made, it has been made – so let’s take a moment to give everyone involved their flowers and a chapeau, because the work the club have done in this area has been outstanding of late.
Let’s move to another contract extension, signed a couple of days ago, and that was Reiss Nelson. This is one where I have a few more thoughts, both from the perspective of the club and the player. Arsenal first: the manager’s repeated calls for greater depth are understood by everyone, I think. We need a bigger squad, and this is a relatively simple way of adding to that.
Arsenal have a couple of first choice wingers in Saka and Martinelli who probably make it more complicated to sign another player of similar quality, because those two are the incumbents. The other thing to consider is that we’re about to spend £200m in this window, on top of £50m+ in January, on top of £110m last summer, and something like £140m the summer before. Incoming money has been minimal, and there isn’t an endless pot of cash, so that’s probably part of why we’ve been keen to retain him.
The other reason is because Arteta believes he can contribute. If you think we’re just giving Nelson a contract to protect his value or some such, you haven’t been paying enough attention to our manager. He would not sanction a new deal if this wasn’t a player he felt could play at the level he wanted. It’s as simple as that.
We also had discussions on the podcasts about why Reiss would want to stay when he probably had a better chance of more regular football elsewhere. He outlined his reasons in his interview after signing:
It’s just the way we played last season. I’ve been here for many years, I’ve been here the good years and bad years, and last year especially, I’ve seen the rise that Arsenal have taken. Taking them to new heights and I feel like I want to be part of the journey.
We’ve talked about how being at Arsenal right now must be an attractive proposition for players elsewhere, without necessarily thinking about that from the perspective of someone like Reiss Nelson. He’s definitely seen good and bad during his time here, and now that it’s good, it’s tough for someone who has come through the Academy since the age of 8 to leave. You can understand why he’d want to be part of it.
That said, having been one of the most talked up Academy kids in recent years, he’s approaching 24 and his career has not been the success people might have envisaged. Injuries, some poor choices, he hasn’t played anywhere near enough and he’s at a point now where really needs to establish himself. I don’t think he’s ever going to push for a starting place here, but he could still be a useful member of the squad. There’s a big onus on him to deliver though. Even with Arteta’s belief in him, it’s a bit of a leap of faith on the club’s part to hand him a five year deal, so it will be very interesting to see what he can do.
So, between all the players we have renewed, there are just two left who I’d be keen to see added to the list. And if talks aren’t ongoing with Martin Odegaard and Ben White, I’d be very surprised. Let’s see what happens as the summer goes on.
That’s just about that. There were medicals at Arsenal yesterday, Declan Rice and Jurrien Timber, but when we get announcements, we’ll have to wait and see.
For now, take it easy and have a great Saturday.