Arsenal must cash in on dream start and tie down Bukayo Saka, William Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli


Longevity is the buzz word at Arsenal. Yes, they are enjoying the here and now following a run of seven wins in eight matches that leaves them top of the Premier League.

But they aren’t patting themselves on the back; with their promising start comes recognition that this isn’t time for self-congratulation. Instead, there is acceptance that the club finds itself in a moment they cannot afford to let slip.

This young Arsenal team — one of the youngest in Europe’s top five divisions — appear to be on the brink of something special. Ensuring it evolves, not fades, is a key motivation right now.

Arsenal have one of the youngest sides in European football, and they must secure young stars

Manager Mikel Arteta has led the Gunners to a great start, and it could be a long-term project

Manager Mikel Arteta has led the Gunners to a great start, and it could be a long-term project

MATCH FACTS 

Arsenal (4-3-3): Ramsdale 6.5; White 7 (Tomiyasu 89min), Saliba 8, Gabriel 6.5, Zinchenko 7 (Tierney 73, 6.5); Partey 8 (Lokonga 73, 6.5), Xhaka 8; Saka 7.5, Odegaard 7 (Vieira 80), Jesus 8.5 (Nketiah 80) Martinelli 7.5. 

Scorers: Partey 20, Jesus 49, Xhaka 67. 

Booked: Saliba, Martinelli. 

Manager: Mikel Arteta 8.

Tottenham (3-4-3): Lloris 5; Romero 6.5, Dier 6, Lenglet 5.5 (Sanchez 71, 5.5); Royal 5, Bentancur 7, Hojbjerg 6 (Skipp 75, 6), Perisic 6.5 (Bissouma 71, 6); Richarlison 6.5 (Sessegnon 71, 5.5), Kane 7.5, Son 6 (Doherty 72, 6). 

Scorer: Kane 31 (pen). 

Booked: Dier. 

Sent off: Royal.

Manager: Antonio Conte 6.

Referee: Anthony Taylor 7. 

Attendance: 60,278.

The priority is to extend Bukayo Saka’s contract. There is confidence from Arsenal that a deal for the England international to extend by at least a further three or four years can be struck.

A contract, which would make Saka one of the best-paid players at the club, has been formally offered but is yet to be signed. The offer would guarantee Saka close to £200,000 a week — a huge amount for a 21-year-old. But there are a few things Saka should consider before he signs.

First, is he underselling himself? Phil Foden recently signed a deal at Manchester City worth £225,000 a week.

Second, would he benefit from a contractual clause that facilitates any departure should Arsenal — as unlikely as it seems right now — fail to qualify for the Champions League? But from a purely footballing point of view, why would Saka consider leaving? There isn’t a more exciting team in England.

Saka’s personal investment in taking an executive box at the Emirates should serve as encouragement that he is fully invested in life at Arsenal.

The club also see extending William Saliba’s contract as a priority.

The 21-year-old’s performances at the heart of Mikel Arteta’s defence have earned rave reviews. Jamie Carragher was the latest to tweet his appreciation during the France international’s brilliant display in Saturday’s win over Tottenham. You can also expect the wheels to start moving on an improved contract for Gabriel Martinelli in the not-too-distant future. The Brazilian is fast emerging as one of the most important players in Arteta’s team, his pace and directness a key facet in the club’s excellent start.

There are plans to secure a new long-term contract for their England player Bukayo Saka

There are plans to secure a new long-term contract for their England player Bukayo Saka

Arsenal are also viewing extending William Saliba's contract with the Gunners as a priority

Arsenal are also viewing extending William Saliba’s contract with the Gunners as a priority

Other clubs are thought to be keen on Gabriel Martinelli, but Arsenal should tie him down soon

Other clubs are thought to be keen on Gabriel Martinelli, but Arsenal should tie him down soon

Sportsmail understands there have been admiring glances at Martinelli from Arsenal’s top-four rivals in recent months — Chelsea among the clubs believed to be monitoring the 21-year-old.

Persuading the aforementioned trio to sign long-term deals at the Emirates is subject to varying factors — none more so than qualifying regularly for the Champions League. It looks inconceivable that Arsenal will not finish in the top four this season. The club intend to spend again in January with a new central midfielder on the radar.

Arteta is taking Arsenal’s involvement in the Europa League seriously — but expect to see the Spaniard rest key players during the group stages of the tournament as he prioritises the Premier League.

Players are also taking responsibility for fitness into their own hands, with a number understood to have employed private trainers to ensure their bodies are fully functioning from week to week.

Arteta may choose to rest players for the Europa League as the Gunners focus on the league

Arteta may choose to rest players for the Europa League as the Gunners focus on the league

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They are not the only ones. England captain Harry Kane, who scored his 100th away Premier League goal against Arsenal on Saturday, is seeing Canada-based Spanish sports medicine specialist Dr Alejandro Elorriaga Claraco away from Tottenham.

Arteta and his players are leaving no stone uncovered in ensuring their Premier League challenge does not fade. But if Arsenal somehow capitulate, you do wonder what knock-on consequence it may have on their attempts to secure the futures of their best young players.

However, the leaders in this Arsenal team — the likes of Granit Xhaka, Gabriel Jesus and captain Martin Odegaard — will ensure the team stay on an even keel should the waters get choppy. Xhaka, in particular, deserves credit for the way he has turned his Arsenal career around after being vilified by his own supporters in 2019, an incident which eventually led to him being stripped of the club captaincy.

Granit Xhaka remains one of Arsenal's most important players, even without the armband

Granit Xhaka remains one of Arsenal’s most important players, even without the armband

But — armband or no armband — Xhaka remains one of Arsenal’s lieutenants. Ask many at the club’s training HQ and they will tell you he is club captain in all but name.

At half-time on Saturday, the Swiss midfielder is understood to have apologised for his role in what led to Tottenham being awarded a first-half penalty that Kane dispatched to equalise. Xhaka failed to clear in the box before Gabriel’s poor tackle on Richarlison forced referee Anthony Taylor’s hand.

Gabriel’s decision to go to ground was misjudged, while Aaron Ramsdale’s decision to come rushing out before realising he had to retreat sparked havoc in defence. But the fact that Xhaka volunteered to take the bullets in the confines of Arsenal’s dressing room speaks volumes for his character.

It all bodes well for Arteta’s ‘process’. Understandably, the Gunners boss will temper the euphoria and expectations — his team host Liverpool on Sunday. Victory against Jurgen Klopp’s side and keeping a lid on things will become considerably harder.



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