Getty Images

It has been the most familiar mood music over which an Arsenal season has been conducted: a star attacker wanted by the biggest clubs in the world, one whose contract is ticking towards a pivotal moment. In theory, it should have been tinkling away throughout this campaign. You'd have done well to hear anything over the din the Emirates Stadium has made in its most boisterous moments but even without that jubilance, the sense of danger over an impending departure was nothing more than an echo of a whisper.

Bukayo Saka has signed his new Arsenal contract, as you always knew he would. All the way back in August, the 21-year-old was saying he shared the "confidence" of his manager Mikel Arteta that terms would eventually be agreed. Even before then, there was no suggestion that the big beasts of Europe or the Premier League ever really stood a chance of snaring the Gunners' Starboy turned Starman.

Nine months later the deal is finally done. Saka and Arsenal, perhaps understandably, felt there were bigger fish to fry and though their respective campaign hit the breaks at just the wrong moment -- only two of the former's 24 goals and assists in this season's Premier League have come since April -- the standing of both parties has risen dramatically over that time. Saka has established himself as an undisputed starter for England, an opponent that simply has to be doubled up on and a talent who ranks in the very highest echelon of the game's youngsters.

Saka believes he has found just the right spot to develop into the best version of himself. 

"For me, it's about achieving my personal ambitions; how much I push myself and demand from myself each game, week in, week out," Saka said. "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."

Saka has done it all in attack this season, especially in Premier Leauge play.  Twenty3

There is plenty of time for him to grow into a contender for individual prizes at the Premier League and global level now that he is tied to Arsenal until 2027, earning an initial sum understood to be around £200,000-a-week. He follows in the footsteps of Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Magalhaes in signing new deals over recent months, next up will be William Saliba, Martin Odegaard and Ben White. In those cases, there is optimism that an agreement will be struck sooner or later. As was the case with Saka, no clubs have yet made an aggressive push for Saliba, reflecting a belief in the game that he probably cannot be snared just yet.

It was not so long ago that a particularly worrisome question hovered over Arsenal: would they be able to provide Saka with the canvas for his masterpiece? It would be one thing that the likes of Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain concluded they needed to go elsewhere to fulfill their potential, quite another for arguably the greatest academy graduate since Tony Adams (all due respect to David Rocastle, Ashley Cole and Jack Wilshere) to make the switch to Manchester City or Liverpool. That possibility seems further away now than it has in decades. If a talented young player wants to fulfill his potential there are precious few better-placed clubs to do so than Arsenal.

Hence why Declan Rice has been so taken by interest from the Gunners at a time when Manchester United and Chelsea have been gazing covetously in his direction. Arsenal have similarly emerged as a serious option for Mason Mount, the sort of predatory move from a nominal rival that was once done unto this club.

"Time is on our side," said Saka. "You can look at our team and a lot of the players are young. We're hungry, and a lot of us haven't won trophies at Arsenal so we want to achieve big things. If you watch the way we all speak, we want to win and we want to win here.

"It's been too long since this club has had Champions League football. I'm really looking forward to Tuesday and Wednesday nights in this stadium, the atmosphere is going to be special."

As for Saka, Arsenal need only to cherish and protect him. With one game of the Premier League season left, he has played 3,122 minutes, among the top 10 midfielders and forwards. Among Manchester City's forwards, only Erling Haaland has logged more than 2,500. Indeed Saka has featured in every top-flight match for the Gunners since May 2021. No wonder he has looked a little burned out in recent weeks. In such circumstances, the monitoring of Moussa Diaby and Raphinha makes sense; with a Champions League campaign around the corner, he will need to have time off.

Happily, for Arsenal, there are plenty more days ahead with Saka in the team. There was no great contract crisis, just a team and talent in perfect harmony. Now they can bask in the light of their star boy for years to come.