Arsenal FC manager Mikel Arteta has ‘no doubts’ Saliba wants to stay at Arsenal

Arsenal FC manager Mikel Arteta has ‘no doubts’ Saliba wants to stay at Arsenal

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ikel Arteta has “no doubts” that William Saliba wants to stay at Arsenal after fearing the defender’s relationship with the club may have been damaged by his turbulent start there.

Saliba joined Arsenal from Saint-Etienne in 2019 for £27million, but has broken into the first team only this season. Arsenal want to tie Saliba down to a new contract, as he has been in brilliant form and is into the final two years of his deal, although there is the option to extend it by 12 months.

Arteta is confident contract talks will go well, but he has revealed he did initially fear Saliba’s relationship with Arsenal could have been damaged by his start to life at the club.

After joining the Gunners, Saliba was loaned straight back to Saint-Etienne. The 21-year-old, who is likely to be one of many players rested tonight when Arsenal face Bodo/Glimt in the Europa League, returned to the club in 2020 and it was assumed he would go straight into the first-team squad.

Instead, Arsenal then tried to loan him back to Saint-Etienne, but a deal could not be completed before the transfer window shut. The centre-back duly spent six months playing for Arsenal’s Under-23s before joining Nice on loan in January 2021. Saliba was loaned out again last season, to Marseille, and despite spending three years away, Arteta is convinced the France defender feels at home at Emirates Stadium as the club opens contract talks with him.

“I was really impressed and surprised when I spoke to him,” said Arteta. “The way the relationship started, [I wondered] if there was damage there, because he had certain expectations. But he was so committed just to play for Arsenal. If I look at how he talks about the club and how much he wants to be here, I have no doubts that he wants to continue to be here.”

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Arsenal also want to tie down Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli to new contracts as, like Saliba, their deals expire in 2024. The Gunners have the option to extend Saka’s deal by a further 12 months and Martinelli’s by another two years. That eases the time pressure on Arsenal, but Arteta has spoken about how it is important to “reward” players who have performed well – and Martinelli and Saka most certainly fall into that bracket.

“Obviously, we have to plan for the future and we are all working on it,” he said. “Edu is on top of it and all of the board and we’ll try to do things in the right way, being fair, and trying to plan the best possible way and reward the players that in our opinion have a big future for the club. When we have something to announce, we will do that.”

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