Saint-Etienne boss slams Arsenal and questions William Saliba transfer decision

Saint-Etienne head coach Claude Puel has questioned the motives behind William Saliba’s transfer to Arsenal and is baffled by his omission from his new club’s Europa League squad.

The highly-rated centre-half signed the Gunners in a £27million transfer over a year ago, but was immediately loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the duration of the 2019/20 season as part of the deal.

Injuries and the abandonment of the Ligue 1 campaign due to the coronavrius pandemic stunted Saliba’s progress ahead of his return to his parent club earlier this summer.

Saliba appeared in a pre-season friendly win over MK Dons but is still waiting to make his competitive debut having been deemed not ready for senior first team football by Mikel Arteta.

The Arsenal head coach is said to have identified two weaknesses in the 19-year-old’s approach to defending and had been contemplating sending him out on loan again to aid his development.

Despite his limited prospects of first team football, however, Arsenal will keep Saliba as part of their first team squad for the time being with proposed moves to Rennes and Saint-Etienne having collapsed.

Brentford and Watford were said to be monitoring Saliba’s situation, but he will now remain at Arsenal, according to Arteta, where it is hoped he will make progress under his new manager’s watchful eye, much to the bafflement of Puel.

He told L’Equipe: ‘It was short-term [thinking], even for the kids. A superb player like William, to whom I wish the best, has not even made it to Arsenal’s Europa League squad. Where is the logic, if not financial?’

The former Southampton boss, meanwhile, confirmed his club tried to engineer Saliba’s return earlier this summer and the teenager was keen on making the move.

‘He had a great desire to join us,’ he added. ‘The club are a bit like family and friends [to him]. His adaptation would have been instant.

‘This would have happened if all the conditions had met. It had to remain consistent with our finances and his contract, particularly for the management.’

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