Arsenal have been publicly blasted by Saint-Etienne after a deadline day loan for William Saliba failed to materialise because the necessary paperwork was not completed - despite an agreement seemingly being in place in good time.
Arsenal signed Saliba from Saint-Etienne last summer, but immediately allowed the promising teenager to stay with his former team on loan for the 2019/20 campaign.
Tensions between the clubs eventually rose when no agreement was reached to extend Saliba’s loan to cover the delayed Coupe de France final.
Saint-Etienne publicly rebuked Arsenal over what they saw as denying Saliba an opportunity to play in the final and labelled the conditions set out by the Gunners as ‘unacceptable’. Arsenal hit back, saying they were willing to find a way for Saliba to play in the final, despite having no obligation to do so, and insisted their training requests were reasonable given his injury-hit campaign.
“We are simply not prepared to risk the welfare of an Arsenal player,” the club said at the time.
Yet despite the apparent ill-feeling between them, a second season-long loan for Saliba was on the cards before the summer transfer window closed earlier this week. But Saint-Etinne have blamed Arsenal with another public statement for it falling through.“For William Saliba, the agreement was concluded,” the French club said. “Long before the transfer window closed, AS Saint-Etienne had reached an agreement with William Saliba and accepted Arsenal's offer for a one-season loan.
“Unfortunately, all the administrative conditions could not be met in time, in England, for the finalisation of the [transfer]. The disappointment is great for ASSE and William Saliba, who was particularly determined to return to the club where he had flourished.”
Saliba was handed the number four shirt by Arsenal when he returned to north London over the summer, an esteemed jersey previously worn by Patrick Vieira and Cesc Fabregas. But his first-team involvement has so far been limited to being an unused substitute in the Community Shield and Carabao Cup, while his only game-time has been 90 minutes captaining the Under-23 side.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta recently expressed the need for care and caution when discussing Saliba’s short-term and long-term prospects at the club, owing to the player’s recent injury record.
“I think William is doing really well. He is adapting to the country, adapting to our club. We have to bear in mind that he had a really challenging season last year with the amount of injuries that he had,” Arteta explained last month.
“But he is a player that is going to be really important in our future, things sometimes take some time and we have to respect that.”
Saliba is now expected to drop down into the Championship on loan, with Arsenal able to negotiate with EFL clubs for another ten days.