Rumour: William Saliba to return to Arsenal after no agreement is reached with Saint-Etienne

According to Peuple Vert, William Saliba will return to Arsenal sooner than expected after the Gunners failed to reach an agreement with his current club Saint-Etienne (ASSE) to allow him to play in the French Cup final.

The 19-year-old’s loan from Arsenal ended on June 30, however ASSE play in the French Cup final on July 24, so as a result, the two clubs were looking to extend the loan.

As July 1st was the official deadline for loan deal extensions to be sorted by, the two clubs worked on a new short-term loan deal for Saliba that would allow him to play in the final. Unfortunately, this could not be done, and in a statement made by Arsenal on July 1st, they outlined why an agreement was never reached.

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Arsenal’s statement read: “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.”

William Saliba in training with Arsenal at the start of the season. All rights reserved by The Standard.

French outlet L’Equipe reported that Arsenal wanted Saliba to return to Arsenal for ten days to complete physical tests and also did not want to pay €2.5m to allow him to play. This was due to a clause in his original loan which stated if the defender started 17 or more games for ASSE, then Arsenal would need to pay that fee. Saliba, of course, has only started 16.

Despite his return, Saliba won’t be able to play for the Gunners this season, although even if he was, he probably wouldn’t be used due to his lack of match fitness and familiarity with Arteta’s game plan. However, unless Arsenal spend big on centre backs in the summer transfer window, the teenager will most likely be playing a lot of games next season.

Unfortunately for Saliba, he suffered injuries that kept him out for over half of the season. However, his impact on a very poor defensive side has shown over the past two seasons.

Without Saliba, ASSE have kept just one clean sheet in the league this season, in a 0-0 draw with Montpellier. However, with the Frenchman in their team, they’ve kept four, including against AS Monaco, who contained Ligue 1’s top goalscorer Wissam Ben Yedder, and rivals Lyon.

William Saliba in a direct duel with Ben Yedder. All rights reserved by HITC.

The previous year, Saliba truly demonstrated his importance with ASSE winning 12 of the 16 games Saliba played in, keeping eight clean sheets. This is compared to eight wins in 22 without him, with Les Verts keeping just five clean sheets in those games.

Despite Mikel Arteta’s best efforts to give Arsenal’s defence some structure, the Spaniard has been let down by individual mistakes by his defenders, most lately demonstrated by Sead Kolasinac in the North London derby.

Saliba is on the opposite side of this spectrum, with the defender not committing a single foul in the league this season, whilst also only being dribbled past five times. These stats are almost unheard of for an Arsenal defender.

Whilst everyone connected with Arsenal is excited for his return, patience will be needed. Saliba is undoubtedly one of the best defensive prospects in Europe, however the teenager will have a completely new lifestyle to settle into and, at such a young age, instant adjustment would be very surprising.

*all stats provided by transfermarkt

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