Arsenal are making a foolish mistake over Ainsley Maitland-Niles, with the England international ready to leave the club on loan in this January transfer window.
The 23-year-old has only played a bit-part role in Mikel Arteta’s side this season, featuring for just 485 minutes of Premier League football in total.
Now, The Daily Mirror claim that Maitland-Niles is “willing to consider a move in January if it means getting more regular minutes”, with an intention of trying to make Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this summer’s EUROs.
And, speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Manchester United game on Saturday, Arteta himself said of the situation: “Yes, it is a concern when there is international football involved as well and the chance to reach that opportunity. I understand that Ainsley wants more minutes and what he needs to do is fight, train and challenge his teammates and show us that he can be one of our starters.”
After playing an integral role in Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph last season – the 23-year-old played left wing-back in both the semi-final and final against Manchester City and Chelsea respectively – it seems incredible to think that Maitland-Niles has fallen so badly out of favour under Arteta this campaign.
And with the Gunners boss giving the green light for Sead Kolasinac to join Bundesliga side Schalke on loan, the north London side are desperately short of left-back cover, with right-back Cedric filling in for Kieran Tierney whenever needed.
The £16.2m-rated Maitland-Niles proved last season that he can play that role effectively, and there’s an element of responsibility on the Arsenal boss to try and get the best out of the academy product.
Whilst it might be better for Maitland-Niles himself to go out on loan in this January window, it certainly wouldn’t be the case for Arsenal themselves. A lengthy injury to Tierney (he’s missed the last couple of games with a calf problem so the danger is already there), and even one to Cedric, would leave the Gunners without anyone who could adequately play that left-back role – Bukayo Saka could fill in, but Arteta would surely want his star sensation to play further forward.
The Arsenal manager either should have brought in some natural left-back cover before he allowed Kolasinac to leave, or given Maitland-Niles more of a consistent opportunity to impress – how can you expect some to shine when they don’t start more than two Premier League games in a row?
Once dubbed “the future” by Arsene Wenger, Maitland-Niles’ career this season has taken a step back.