Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has admitted that he is keen to see young winger Bukayo Saka continue his development at the club by signing a new contract.
The 18-year-old has broken through to the first team this season, often filling it at left-back to try and soften the blow of the Gunners’ injury struggles.
Many fans see him as a potential star of the future, but the problem is that Saka has entered the final 18 months of his contract at the Emirates Stadium, and the likes of Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Manchester United are thought to be keen on signing him.
Arsenal have opened talks with the teenager to try and extend his stay at the club, and Arteta, speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of his side’s meeting with Newcastle United on Sunday, insisted he is not concerned by the situation.
“I am really happy with how they [young players] are developing,” he said. “Part of that developing is to improve the contract and to tie them to the club.
“But that has to follow a natural process. We have Edu, we have Raul [Sanllehi], Vinai [Venkatesham] and Huss [Fahmy] who are in charge of that and I am sure we will do the right thing when players deserve to improve and extend their contracts.”
Arteta has every right to be excited about Saka’s progression. He began this season as a relatively unknown prospect, but has since proven to be one of Arsenal’s most exciting young players as the campaign has progressed.
It’s important to remember that Saka has been played out of position this season. The 18-year-old is a left winger by trade, but has stepped up to take on a defensive role with maturity and confidence.
Perhaps most importantly, his performances have been great, and that’s exactly what Arsenal need to reward.
The Gunners are a club with a rich history of putting their faith in youth. Former manager Arsène Wenger helped the team see the importance of giving young players a chance, and that’s how the likes of Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie managed to blossom into stars.
That identity has begun to fade since Wenger’s departure, so Arsenal need to fix that and make Saka the poster boy for the new wave of talent coming through at the Emirates.
When a clear pathway to the first team and a fair chance at financial reward can be seen clearly, it encourages other future stars to join. When those players do arrive, not only does the team get better, but the club saves a whole lot of money.
It’s happening with Liverpool right now, while Chelsea are obviously putting an emphasis on doing so this year. Arsenal need to join in the fun, and getting Saka’s contract sorted out as soon as possible is the perfect way of doing that.