Arsenal have defended their stance over William Saliba’s loan deal after Saint-Etienne described their decision not to grant a short-term extension as ‘unacceptable’.
Arsenal signed the young defender from Saint-Etienne last summer before loaning him back to the French side to continue his development, where the teenager has enjoyed a promising campaign before the curtailment of the Ligue 1 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Saint-Etienne, however, are due to face Paris Saint-Germain in the rescheduled French Cup final later this month and had been keen to secure a short-term extension to Saliba’s loan which expired yesterday, with Mikel Arteta having given his blessing to the deal.
The Gunners boss said yesterday that the 19-year-old had ‘earned the right to play in that final’ and was hopeful an agreement could be reached, only for the two clubs to fail to come to an agreement which prompted a furious reaction from Saint-Etienne.
“Saint-Etienne was pleased to learn yesterday Tuesday that Mikel Arteta, Arsenal coach, was ready to leave William Saliba at the disposal of the club until the final of the Coupe de France,” a club statement from the French club reads.
“William Saliba had been training for several days with Claude Puel’s group and was obviously very enthusiastic about the idea of finishing his course in Green with such a match.
“Alas, ASSE, which simply wanted the extension of the initial loan until July 24, could not find an agreement in the evening with Arsenal to allow the defender to properly prepare and play this meeting, the English club imposing absolutely unacceptable sports and financial conditions.”
William Saliba did not commit a single foul from an attempted tackle during the 2019/20 Ligue 1 season:
❍ 991 minutes
❍ 24 tackles attempted
❍ 19 tackles made
❍ 5 x dribbled past
❍ 0 fouls from attempted tackles
Arsenal fans, the wait is over. pic.twitter.com/ofQ8x2FOrx
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 1, 2020
However, Arsenal have now hit back at their French counterparts, saying that while they were ‘willing’ to allow him to stay, they were surprised that St Etienne were unwilling to ensure the defender followed ‘a clear training plan’ set out by the club’s ‘medical experts’.
“Throughout our discussions with St Etienne, our aim has been to protect the welfare of William Saliba as well as the interests of Arsenal Football Club, while honouring the terms of the loan,” a statement on the Arsenal website reads.
“Despite the loan ending on June 30, we were willing to find a way for William to play in the [French] cup final on July 24, despite having no contractual obligation to do so.
“As William is returning from injury, we asked that St Etienne follow a clear training plan with William in close collaboration with us, to ensure he is fully fit for the start of next season.
“To our surprise we were unable to reach agreement to this plan which was proposed by our medical experts, and we are simply not prepared to risk the welfare of an Arsenal player.
“While it was not our primary concern, and ultimately not relevant as our training plan was not accepted, we also expected not to be financially disadvantaged by extending the loan. This was also not acceptable to St Etienne.
“We know this is a disappointment for William but he understands we are working to protect his long-term interests and those of Arsenal.”