William Saliba has become the latest big-name Arsenal star to commit his future to the club after signing a new long-term contract.
The France defender played a pivotal role as the Gunners ultimately came up short in their Premier League title tilt last season and has now agreed fresh terms at the Emirates Stadium.
Saliba, 22, was an ever-present in the league until he suffered a back injury during the Europa League defeat to Sporting in mid-March – an issue that would ultimately rule him out for the remainder of the campaign.
Without him, Mikel Arteta’s side saw their lead at the top of the table cut by Manchester City, who eventually powered past Arsenal to retain their title.
Now, though, an agreement has finally been reached that ties Saliba to the club on a four-year deal, the PA new agency understands.
“I was born in north Paris, but became a man in north London,” Saliba said in a video message for Arsenal fans on the club’s Twitter account.
“I know it must have been strange for you. I show up, a kid you have never heard of and then keep going away to different clubs (on loan) before you get to see me play.
“But I know now this was the best plan for me, and last summer when I came back to the club and became a pivotal part of the team words cannot describe how I feel here. how you (fans) make me feel.
“Having the confidence of the boss and the staff, and then having your love and support made me feel 10 feet tall… so thank you Gooners, this if for you. We are together and let’s keep moving.”
Saliba, who will move to the number two shirt next season, did not make his competitive Arsenal debut until the start of last season, despite joining from St Etienne in 2019 for a reported £27million.
William Saliba became an integral part of Arsenal’s defence last season (John Walton/PA)
Instead, the centre-back was loaned back to his former club before also spending time at Nice and Marseille – being named Ligue 1 young player of the year after a fine 2021/22 season with the latter.
After last season’s progress in pushing Manchester City for the Premier League title, Saliba is confident Arteta’s young squad can continue to grow.
“I’m so, so, so hungry because I didn’t play for four months and I didn’t help my team, so I hope I won’t have an injury this season, I want to be here all this season with the team,” Saliba told Arsenal.Com.
“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.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta feels his squad can maintain their progress (John Walton/PA)
Saliba’s performances for Arsenal attracted interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, with Arteta happy to see Saliba extend his stay in north London
“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,” Arteta said on the club website.
“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 defender becomes the latest of Arteta’s key men to sign a new contract with Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale having already done so earlier this year and Saliba’s centre-back partner Gabriel Magalhaes signing on last October.
Reiss Nelson also agreed a fresh deal on Thursday as Arteta aims to maintain the nucleus of the squad that almost ended a 19-year wait for a Premier League title.
One player who played a key role last season who will not be part of Arteta’s ranks moving forward is Granit Xhaka – the midfielder having joined Bayer Leverkusen for £21.4million on Thursday.
However, Declan Rice is set to undergo a medical with the West Ham captain to become the most expensive British player in Premier League history when his £105million move across the capital goes through.
Rice will join Kai Havertz in signing for Arsenal this summer while Ajax defender Jurrien Timber is also close to completing a switch to the Emirates.