There’s only one place to start this morning and that’s the confirmation that Bukayo Saka has signed a new contract with the club.
It runs for four years, tying him to Arsenal until 2027, and it’s worth a reported £15m a year. We can go into the details of that a little bit, but first and foremost we should focus on what is simply excellent news. Saka, at 21 years of age, has just produced a season in which he scored 14 goals and made 11 assists. He is the jewel of our Academy crown, and it was so important to secure his future.
Mikel Arteta says:
Retaining our best young talents is key to our continued progress and Bukayo represents such an important part of our squad now and for the future.
As well as being a fantastic talent, Bukayo is a special person, he’s loved by us all and he is a credit to himself and his family for the hard work and commitment they have all made to get to this level today.
While Saka himself explained his reasons, beyond the fact he’s an Arsenal lad who has grown up at this club – that only goes so far:
For me, it’s about achieving my personal ambitions; how much I push myself and demand from myself each game, week in, week out. Then I have all the right people around me in terms of family, and when I come to the training ground, my teammates, the coaching staff.
I think I have everything I need to become the best player I can be, and that’s why I’m happy to stay here and be here for the future, because I really believe that we can achieve big things.
Make no mistake, there isn’t a club in the world who wouldn’t have been interested in signing him, even if realistically there are very few who could have attracted him in the first place. What he says about Arsenal being the right place for him is, in some ways, a consequence of the progress we’ve made. I think this would have been a much more difficult renewal if we were scrapping for the Europa League rather than the title for most of the campaign.
Ultimately, there are shades of disappointment at how the season has ended, but one of the positive aspects is the fact this feels like a team that is still capable of more, of better. When you’re trying to re-sign a player like Bukayo Saka, that is incredibly helpful. We’ve already seen how it made renewals for Gabriel, Gabriel Martinelli and Aaron Ramsdale much less complicated, and hopefully that sense of positivity will enable us to make progress with the other players we want to tie down. It is just easier to convince players to commit their future when you’re good.
As for the length of the deal – four years without an option to extend for a year like many contracts have these days – I don’t worry too much about that. Saka has a very smart agent, and he knows that after two years of this current contract, the process starts again. Saka will only be 23 years of age at that point, with lots of his best years ahead of him. As I said above, the challenge of retaining him is tied directly to how competitive Arsenal are as a club, and if we’re in a good place, challenging for titles and hopefully winning trophies along the way, that’s our safety net.
As for his wages, a deal worth a potential £15m a year comes in just shy of £290,000 a week if – and this is a big if – the entire thing is paid in basic salary. Which of course it won’t be. It will be structured with bonuses, image rights, and more; incentives which are part and parcel of every player’s contract. I’ll say this, if Bukayo Saka takes home £290,000 every week, we’ll all be very happy because of what he and the team are producing.
The other thing to take into account is that not only is Saka one of Arsenal’s best players, he’s one of England’s best players too, so there’s an element of benchmarking his salary against what some of his national team colleagues are earning. That doesn’t mean we have to match the depths of Man City’s limitless pockets, or the stupidity of Man Utd or Chelsea’s wage bill when it comes to certain players, but he had every right, after what he has produced and the consistency with which he’s done it, to look for something in the same ballpark.
I don’t really understand people who make parallels between this and the deals for Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Saka is 21 with his entire career ahead of him, these guys were in their late 20s/early 30s, and heading into the winter of their own playing careers. There are significant differences in motivation when you’re younger, so I don’t have any worries that this will impact his performance levels.
What I would say is that while I’ve mentioned his consistency and availability, as outlined by the fact he’s set to play in every game for the second successive season, I do think we need to find a way to manage his minutes better across next season’s dual-challenges of Premier and Champions League.
Should he feature against Wolves, Bukayo Saka will become the first player to not miss a single game in back-to-back league campaigns for #Arsenal since David Seaman (1990-91 & 1991-92) and the first outfield player to do so for the club since Lee Dixon (1989-90 & 1990-91).
— Harvey Downes (@HarveyDownes92) May 23, 2023
He has the second most outfield minutes for us this season (behind Gabriel), and this period at the end of the campaign where has gone five games without a goal contribution is the longest since a three game run back at the very start of August. It does suggest that he, like some others and the team as a whole, ran out of steam a little bit, but that brings us to the need for depth we’ve spoken about as key for the summer ahead. A genuine alternative to help lessen the burden on him next time out seems like an important part of our recruitment strategy. We know Arteta wants another winger, so let’s hope we get that done.
Anyway, it is great news. He is a fantastic player, and by all accounts a brilliant person too. I can’t recommend this long-read on the official site highly enough – giving you great insight into his progress at Arsenal from the time he arrived to now. Well worth your time.
Right, let’s leave it there for this morning. More here tomorrow.