Arsenal to ‘step up contract talks’ with 21-year-old after ‘significant difference’ in opening offer

Date published: Tuesday 17th January 2023 5:26 - Jason Soutar

Arsenal defender William Saliba during a match against Newcastle

Premier League leaders Arsenal will ‘step up contract talks’ with William Saliba’s representatives ‘next week’, according to James Olley.

The Gunners bought Saliba from Saint-Etienne for £27million back in 2019.

After failing to make a single first-team appearance under Mikel Arteta or Unai Emery, the 21-year-old was handed his Arsenal debut on the first day of this season.

The Frenchman put in a stellar performance in the 2-0 win at Crystal Palace and has established a wonderful partnership with Gabriel Magalhaes.

With his contract set to expire in 2024 – after the club exercised the option to extend his deal by a year – Arsenal are very eager to tie Saliba down to a new long-term deal.

The Gunners are working on deals for Saliba and wingers Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.

Speaking last month, manager Mikel Arteta admitted that contract talks are not conducted by him and believes Saliba has the potential to become a “really important” player.

“We have a few of those that we are willing to extend the contract, Willy is one of them,” he said.

Arteta added: “I think he’s shown in the months that he’s been with us the quality and the personality he has to play at the level that we want.

“We are trying to do that because we know he can be a really important part of our plans.”

And according to ESPN correspondent James Olley, Arsenal ‘plan to step up talks next week’ over a new long-term contract for Saliba.

Unsurprisingly, the Gunners are ‘keen’ to keep hold of the promising France international.

However, there is a ‘significant difference’ between the club’s ‘current proposal’ and the player’s ‘demands’.

Saliba’s agent is ‘due in London next week’ when negotiations will resume.

The 21-year-old admitted after Sunday’s win at Tottenham that his agent has opened talks with the Arsenal board.

“I am so happy here,” Saliba said.

“The club is speaking with my agent and me, the only thing I can do is [focus on my football]. I am so happy here.”

Saliba was named Ligue 1 Player of the Year last season after a tremendous campaign with Marseille, who qualified for the Champions League with the youngster in their defence.

There were a lot of doubts over his future at the Emirates after loan spells with Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille.

However, Saliba has settled in brilliantly with the Gunners top of the Premier League, eight points ahead of champions Manchester City after 18 games.

He has started every league game for Arsenal this term and is a huge reason they have the second-best defensive record in the top flight this term.

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