WILLIAM SALIBA has revealed that it was his three years in the Arsenal wilderness which convinced him to sign his new long-term Emirates contract.
The 22-year-old French international defender has finally put pen to paper on a £220,000-a-week deal to 2027.
And he reckons it was having to fight so hard for his Premier League future which has made him the player he is today.
Saliba joined Arsenal in a £27million move from St.Etienne in 2019 but spent his first three seasons back in France on loan.
And it was only last season that he was able to convince manager Mikel Arteta that he was ready for the challenge of English football.
Now he says: “My first years at the club were hard but I worked really hard and I didn’t give up.
“And maybe if my early experience had been easy, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today.
“Sometimes it’s good for a young player to learn like this. It was important for my mentality and last summer I came back stronger knowing I had the confidence of the coach and all the players.
“That’s why I am so excited to extend my contract. I spoke with the coach, with Edu and with my agent, but the decision was easy after such a good season for me.”
Saliba’s only regret was that he was forced to miss Arsenal’s final 11 games of last season after suffering a persistent back injury and was a helpless spectator as his team were overhauled by Manchester City in the title run-in.
He admits: “It was so hard watching my team for the last two months when every game was so important.
“I’m so hungry because it’s now four months since I last played and I can’t wait to get back onto the pitch.
“The reason I have signed this contract is because I think we can achieve everything at Arsenal.
“We have the coach, the character, the players and every year the team gets stronger.
“We have better players with a good mentality and we are all confident that we can do something special with this club.”
Arteta said: “To have William extend his contract with us was something we have wanted to do for a long time.
“He proved last season just how good he is and how important he is to our squad
“The ability has at 22-years-old is so exciting and of course there is so much room for development with a player at this stage of his career.”
Saliba becomes the fifth young Arsenal player to commit his long-term future to the club this year after Gabriel Martinelli, Aaron Ramsdale, Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson all signed lengthy new contracts.