Arsenal close to agreeing new Saliba contract – Arteta

Mikel Arteta said Arsenal are edging closer to agreeing a new contract with defender William Saliba, insisting “it is about timing, nothing else.”

The Gunners signed Saliba from Saint-Etienne for £27 million in 2019 but immediately sent him on a series of loans, initially back to his former Ligue 1 club before spells at Nice and Marseille.

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It appeared at one stage that Saliba may never play for Arsenal but after winning Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year with Marseille, the 22-year-old was reintegrated into the first-team squad last summer and has been one of their key players during an improbable Premier League title challenge.

ESPN reported on Jan. 17 that the club were stepping up talks with Saliba, who has just over a year left on his current contract, after he had rejected their most recent offer with the two parties thought to be some way apart in terms of the salary being proposed.

While admitting there was no public update to provide, Arteta allayed fears the situation had stalled again when speaking on Friday ahead of Arsenal’s crucial weekend trip to Newcastle.

“We want to keep our best talent,” he said. “Especially the players that deserve some recognition. I think he has been incredible since he came back from his loan period and we want to reward him, that is for sure. We will find the right moment to do that.

“Obviously [technical director] Edu and the board are on top of every negotiation regarding new contracts and now we are doing everything we possibly can to do that in the right moment at the right time.

“The communication and the relationship is super. It is about timing, I think. Nothing else.”

Saliba has been sidelined since March 16 with a back injury and he will miss Sunday’s game at St James’ Park.

However, Arteta refused to rule the Frenchman out for the season.

“We are not there yet today, because we’re always hopeful and players are pushing to play,” he added.

“If that’s the case at some stage we’ll announce it. But hopefully that’s not the case. [There is] not a lot of progress. He’s feeling better every day but he’s not been able still to have any activity around the first team so we don’t expect him to be with us [at Newcastle].”