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‘He is a bit of a Rolls-Royce’ Arsenal open new contract talks with William Saliba after fine start to season

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Arsenal's William Saliba shields Tottenham Hotspur's Richarlison from the ball. Photo: Reuters

Arsenal's William Saliba shields Tottenham Hotspur's Richarlison from the ball. Photo: Reuters

Arsenal's William Saliba shields Tottenham Hotspur's Richarlison from the ball. Photo: Reuters

Arsenal have held preliminary talks with William Saliba over a new contract.

The 21-year-old Frenchman has been in sensational form this season, and he put in another fine performance on Saturday, as he helped the Gunners beat Tottenham 3-1 to stay top of the Premier League.

Centre-back Saliba joined Arsenal in 2019 from Saint-Etienne for £27m, but he only made his debut this year after being loaned out for the past three seasons.

Saliba has quickly become a key part of Mikel Arteta’s defence and the club wants to tie him down to fresh terms, with less then two years left to run on his current contract.

When asked about the prospect of signing a new deal soon, Saliba said: “Yeah, we will see. They [Arsenal and my agent] talk a little bit. [When I spoke with Arteta in the summer], he talked about my last season and he explained the project for this season.

“You have to wait every time and I wait a long time for my first north London derby. I enjoyed it since the first minute to the end, and now I am so happy. We are so happy to win at home against Tottenham. It was a hard game, but we were focused all the game. We deserve this win.”

Saliba has started all eight of Arsenal’s Premier League games this season, with Ben White moving to right-back to accommodate him in the backline, and held his own against Harry Kane on Saturday and ensured his team-mates kept their heads when they were rocking before half-time.

Arsenal took the lead in the 20th minute through Thomas Partey, but Kane’s penalty 11 minutes after that unsettled them. Saliba was notably one of those to keep his cool at 1-1 and Arsenal wrapped up the win in the second half, thanks to goals from Gabriel Jesus and Granit Xhaka.

Saliba had his name sung by the Arsenal fans as he left the pitch and he is relishing playing against the likes of Kane each week.

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“We play against the best players in the world. It is good for young players like me, and I learn a lot,” he said. “The more we win, the more we are confident. We want every week to win, to win, to win — and that’s it.

“It’s a derby, a big game, where all the fans and the players want to win. I like to play big games like this.” Saliba’s fine performance was even more noticeable due to his centre-back partner, Gabriel, giving away the penalty — which Kane converted — after bringing down Richarlison with a rash challenge in the box.

Saliba has been the pick of Arsenal’s centre-backs this season and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has hailed his impact.

“He has fit in really well,” he said. “It is a credit to him that he has been put straight into the team, he is a bit of a Rolls-Royce with the way he moves and he has never seemed fazed.

“He is still a young boy so still makes mistakes, so at the minute it is either Ben [White], myself, Gabriel or Thomas Partey digging him out and he is digging other people out as well.

“That is the main thing at the minute, our mistakes aren’t leading to too many things and that is the sign of a team who have good characters in and around that back five.”

© Evening Standard


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