Arsenal Are Reportedly Optimistic About Contract Extensions for Bukayo Saka, William Saliba, and Gabriel Martinelli

After a tough stretch, Arsenal supporters are finally feeling good about their football club again. While the Gunners might not be playing Champions League soccer just yet, they’ve developed an identity and, at least in the early days of the campaign, are playing well. That’s largely due to a talented crop of young players, including the likes of Bukayo Saka, William Saliba, and Gabriel Martinelli.

While there are plenty of positives to having a young core — they’re exciting, play with hunger, and are less expensive than established stars — there is a major drawback. As those players shine, they’ll become attractive to other clubs. That makes contract management essential; you either have to keep the burgeoning stars at Arsenal or ensure that you can sell them for a sizable sum, should that reality arise.

With that in mind, technical director Edu Gaspar has reportedly been hard at work. Not only has he gotten the ball rolling on contract extensions for Saka, Saliba, and Martinelli, but the Brazilian apparently believes that things are on the right path.

Arsenal are reportedly feeling pretty good about three key contract extensions

Gabriel Martinelli (L), Bukayo Saka (C), and William Saliba (R).
Gabriel Martinelli (L), Bukayo Saka (C), and William Saliba (R). | David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images, Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images, Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

While the recent lack of top-end talent has somewhat changed things, there was a time when Arsenal developed an undesirable reputation as a club that would always sell its best players. If recent reports are to be believed, it seems that Edu is taking steps to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

As reported by Graeme Bailey of 90min, “Arsenal are pushing hard to tie Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and William Saliba down to new long-term contracts.” While that isn’t too surprising — every club will try to hand young stars contract extensions — the news out of North London does seem to be positive.

“Sources have confirmed to 90min that director of football Edu believes all three deals are on the right track,” Bailey continued, “with the Gunners hopeful that all three will have put pen to paper by January.”

While any contract extension would be an obvious positive, getting them done before the next transfer window would be a bonus. It’s usually tough to do business in January, but things could be different after an unprecedented winter World Cup. Should Arsenal want to bring in another player, having things squared away internally will help shape those plans. Saliba, for example, would be out of contract after the 2023 campaign, meaning that he’d theoretically be sold in summer 2023 if he doesn’t agree to a new deal. Should that reality be on the cards, the Gunners could want to bring in his replacement this season to ensure a smooth transition.

Rumors are just rumors, but there are some breadcrumbs that suggest Arsenal fans can be optimistic

If you’ve followed Arsenal, you know that relying on rumors can be risky; the likes of Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain still haven’t signed their contracts, after all. With that being said, though, there have been some positive hints that Saka, Martinelli, and Saliba could extend their deals.

We’ll start with Saka since his signals have been the most obvious. Beyond the fact that he’s progressed from a bit-part player to an England starter at Arsenal, the attacker publicly admitted that he shared manager Mikel Arteta’s confidence that a new deal will materialize. For both Arteta and Saka to speak so openly about that contract suggests that there is genuine confidence. It would be a PR nightmare to tease it, only to have things collapse.

Moving on to Gabriel Martinelli, the fact that he’s being included in this group is a positive sign in itself. The Brazilian’s contract contains an optional extension, giving Arsenal a bit more breathing room, so Edu probably wouldn’t be working this proactively if there wasn’t confidence in hammering out a new deal.

It’s also worth noting that the Gunners have built up a bit of a Brazilian core, which would presumably make Martinelli feel at home. In August, he also told ESPN Brazil (h/t Football London) that “If I can, I’ll stay [at Arsenal] my whole life. I want to conquer things, as I said, I want to stay here and win titles, with these wonderful fans, my teammates.” While plenty of players have said similar things and moved on, it’s hard to view the young winger’s situation as a totality and imagine him bolting from the Emirates.

Saliba is the trickiest player to pin down simply because he’s only properly joined Arsenal this summer. Any ideas about his happiness or displeasure in the squad are simply based on rumors, old interviews, and clips of him smiling after matches. At this point, you can interpret those clues to mean whatever you’d like them to mean.

Working in Arsenal’s favor, however, is the fact that the young defender has immediately stepped into the starting 11; barring injury or rotation, it doesn’t seem like he’s leaving the lineup any time soon. He also grew up supporting the Gunners — something the media around his initial signing made sure to emphasize — and, during the summer, his agent posted an Instagram story, which was promptly captured on Reddit, suggesting that he was in the room where the club usually take contract-signing photos.

Is there time for things to go wrong on any and all of those fronts? Yes, but given the clues and Arsenal’s bright start to the season, the project is looking pretty appealing right now.

That, combined with Edu’s reported optimism, gives Gooners plenty to feel good about.

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