On Wednesday morning, Arsenal signed Bukayo Saka to a new long-term contract. It is the biggest move the club will make this summer.
As Mikel Arteta enters his first summer as Arsenal head coach, the club has some massive decisions to make. From the futures of key players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette to dealing with the financial implications of an unforeseen global pandemic that put the season on hold for three months and could see games played behind closed doors until the end of next year, the club has a lot on its plate.
Many of the decisions that are made in the coming weeks and months, on and off the pitch, will have huge ramifications in the future. As is the case with almost every summer transfer window, this is a hugely significant period for the future of the team.
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And yet, despite all the uncertainty and many choices Arsenal still have to make, the most significant has already been completed.
On Wednesday, the Gunners confirmed that Bukayo Saka had agreed to a new long-term contract. The terms remain undisclosed, though it is reasonable to assume the deal includes a rather substantial wage hike from his initial professional contract and will run for at least four years and more likely for five or six years, expiring around 2025.
The 18-year-old did have one year remaining on his new deal. Reports claimed that Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund were monitoring the situation as his performances for the first team continued to blossom. However, despite consistent worries that Saka would force his way out of the club, a deal has now been completed. Arteta, speaking to the official club website, is overjoyed with the move:
“I am delighted, he fully deserves this new deal. I think he represents every value that this football club stands for. He has come through the academy, and earned his respect with hard work and accountability and you can see the progression that he is having as a player but as well as a person. He is a player that his team-mates really like, that I admire and he has a big hunger to become even better so I think it is the perfect thing to do right now.”
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Saka has been remarkable this season. Breaking into the starting XI at just 18, he has played left-back, left wing-back, left and right-wing, and now even in central midfield, where he might just be best-suited in Arteta’s contorted, augmented 4-3-3 shape. This versatility speaks to his natural ability, his spatial awareness, and his understanding of the game. He is mature beyond his years.
Keeping him at the club was an utmost priority entering the summer, more so than locking down the future of Aubameyang, the club captain and top goalscorer. At 31, Aubameyang offers far less long-term potential and resale value than Saka. He will not be a part of the project Arteta is building. Saka, on the other hand, is set to be an integral piece.
This deal, then, is the biggest move Arsenal could make this summer. They have plenty of work to do between now and the start of the new season, admittedly, but signing Saka was the most important deal. Now that it’s done, the club can focus on other tasks.