According to The Athletic’s David Ornstein, West Brom have now entered pole position on deadline day to sign Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles on loan in this transfer window.
With the England international struggling to get consistent starts under Mikel Arteta this season in the Premier League – he’s started just once in the Gunners’ last seven top-flight games – it’s no surprise that recent reports have indicated he is generating a lot of interest from sides keen on signing him on loan.
The journalist claims that West Brom have reignited talks to sign him, and that a deal should get done, with Arsenal reluctant to send him to a rival and Maitland-Niles himself not wanting Southampton.
🚨 West Brom reignite talks to sign Ainsley Maitland-Niles on straight loan — deal should get done. #WBA looked out yesterday as 23yo targeted Leicester & Arsenal favoured Southampton. But #AFC won’t send to rival + AMN didn’t want #SAINTSFC @TheAthleticUK https://t.co/TjiWVIiREH
— David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) February 1, 2021
Whilst the allure of consistent first-team football makes this a pretty good move on the face of it for both Maitland-Niles and Arsenal, for the Gunners in particular, it’s a very dangerous move.
The north London side have already been burned before when it’s come to sending young talent to the wrong clubs on loan, with Serge Gnabry of course the most high-profile example when he played just three times under Tony Pulis at the Hawthorns.
Whilst Maitland-Niles may play more regularly than the German did in his time with the Baggies, the styles of football are so distinctly different between Arsenal and West Brom that it just doesn’t make sense from the north London side’s point of view.
Is letting the 23-year-old go to a club who rank bottom for possession (40.8%), bottom for shots per game (7.9), 19th for dribbles per match (6.5), and fifth-highest for long balls per game (63) the wisest decision? Maitland-Niles wouldn’t be playing his football in the kind of environment that Arsenal have developed over the years, and it could set his progress back considerably, as it did for Gnabry.
The Baggies’ style of play isn’t what’s best for the £16.2m-rated ace’s development. Edu should intervene and either keep him at the Emirates and let him fight for his place, or find another suitor for him. Letting him join West Brom would be a grave mistake on the technical director’s part.