Bukayo Saka contract lays down exciting marker for Arsenal future, says Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal tying down Bukayo Saka to a new contract will underline the strength of the club’s long-term project.
Arsenal have an agreement in principle with Saka after a breakthrough in talks during a meeting with his representatives on Thursday.
The 21-year-old is set to sign a new long-term contract worth around £200,000 a week and it should be finalised over the coming weeks.
Saka’s current deal is due to expire at the end of next season and Arsenal have been working on fresh terms for more than six months.
They have already tied down Gabriel Martinelli to a new contract until 2027 and Arteta believes keeping Saka is further evidence of the Gunners planning for the future.
“We want to keep our best players. The players that we are developing,” he said. “We want to create a long-term project here and we need our best players at the club.
“That is our responsibility; to keep our best players and people, and the people who have the same aims and purposes with the club, and stick them together for a while and give them some stability. From there keep evolving and from there become a better club.
“It is part of developing a team and developing a squad and taking the club where we want. It is maximising the resources we will have and we have huge resources as we have a lot of talent. We have to keep that talent and make it better.
“When it (Saka’s contract) is done, I can tell you more. But obviously we have the intention to extend the contract of our players and, when it’s done, it’s great news for the club.”
As well as Saka, the Gunners also want to get William Saliba to sign a new deal. The defender’s current contract expires in 2024 and Arsenal remain in talks with his representatives.
Saka has been a pivotal player for Arsenal this season and has helped fire them to the top of the Premier League.
The Gunners are currently two points clear of Manchester City, with a game in hand, and they play at Leicester on Saturday looking to extend their lead, if only for a few hours. City are also in action when they face Bournemouth away in the 5.30pm kick-off.
Saka is Arsenal’s top scorer this season and he has had to cope with being targeted by opposition defenders. Arteta wants referees to give the England winger protection, but he has backed the 21-year-old to cope with rough treatment.
“If you ask him how it used to be when he was 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 — it isn’t very different,” said Arteta. “Wingers and talented players get kicked and fouled and get the demand to win games and that is the chance he has, that is his role in the team. He needs to learn when to take certain balls, what to do with that ball, how to use his body, when to jump.
“There are a lot of things we can train but obviously it is very difficult to understand what the opponent is going to do. He attracts a lot of attention. It is like Gabi Martinelli or Gabi [Jesus] when they play, or Eddie [Nketiah] or Martin [Odegaard].
“It is normal creative players want to be stopped and they (the opposition) want to restrict the ball getting into them.
“I’m sure refs want to protect individuals in the best possible way in every game. There is a lot of focus now on Bukayo, and we need to keep that in mind as a team with the plans that we put together, but for sure referees have their responsibilities and they have to do their jobs.”