William Saliba has signed a new four-year contract at Arsenal.
The France defender, who was signed by the Gunners from French club Saint-Etienne in 2019 for £27m, has become one of Arsenal’s most important players under manager Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal have now tied down the 22-year-old until 2027 having already secured new deals for Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Aaron Ramsdale in a big boost to their project.
Runners-up to treble winners Manchester City in the Premier League last season, Arsenal have invested heavily in their squad already this summer as they look to bridge the gap.
Kai Havertz is already through the door after a £65m transfer from Chelsea, with Declan Rice and Jurrien Timber also expected to be joining him shortly for a combined total of £143.5m.
Arsenal have also announced Saliba, who only had one year remaining on his previous contract, has changed his shirt number from 12 to two for the new campaign.
“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.”
Arteta said: “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.”
Edu, Arsenal’s sporting director, added: “We are so happy to have signed a new deal with William Saliba.
“William is part of our vision to keep our talented young players, who will hopefully be successful with us for many years to come, so that we can grow and progress together.
“I know the supporters will be just as happy as we are to see William continue with us in the future.”
Analysis: Arsenal’s signing of the summer?
Sky Sports’ Nick Wright:
Arsenal’s spending is set to pass £200m with the additions Kai Havertz, Declan Rice and Jurrien Timber but tying William Saliba to a new deal might represent their best piece of business yet.
The 22-year-old had to wait for his chance after signing for the club in 2019, embarking on a series of loan spells back in France, but his impact last season was transformative, to such an extent that when injury struck in April, the team fell apart.
His importance is not lost on his team-mates, with Gabriel Jesus this week pinpointing the loss of Saliba as the pivotal moment in Arsenal’s title challenge. “When he plays, we concede few goals, when he doesn’t play, the number increases,” said the Brazil forward.
“When I got injured, Eddie (Nketiah) replaced me very well. Then we signed Leo (Trossard). We kept the pace. But when Saliba got injured, it was complicated. The other defenders are good, but we were playing in a certain way. Look at the stats, we concede a lot less with him.”
Saliba had established himself as one of the best young centre-backs in Europe by the time of his injury and Arsenal felt his absence in an offensive sense as well as defensively, their passing game disrupted and their collective performance levels dipping.
His new contract is no guarantee against injury, of course. But it does ensure the future of this game-changing young centre-back lies with them, instead of elsewhere, and that is a tantalising prospect given his peak years are still to come.