Arsenal have hit back at Saint-Etienne after the Ligue 1 club slammed the Gunners for not allowing William Saliba to see out the remainder of the season in France.

The north Londoners paid £27 million ($33m) to sign the centre-back last summer, on the proviso that the Paris-born teenager would remain with ASSE on loan for the 2019-20 campaign.

The rescheduling of fixtures due to the coronavirus pandemic saw the Coupe de France pushed back to July 24, however, almost a month after Saliba was due to arrive in London.

Head coach Mikel Arteta had originally expected the defender to take part in the cup clash against Paris Saint-Germain with Arsenal’s permission , but Saliba has since departed.

Saint-Etienne panned the Gunners’ decision to recall their player, stating that the move was “absolutely unacceptable” .

Arsenal, however, have responded in kind, explaining that the terms set out for a loan extension were not accepted by the French side and that the well-being of their player is paramount.

A statement released on Wednesday reads: “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. 
 
“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.”