Everton could be set for a busy January transfer window as their struggles under manager Rafa Benitez continued over the weekend via a 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
That result meant the Toffees have only picked up five points from a possible 30 in recent weeks, winning just one of their last ten Premier League games to pile the pressure on their Spanish boss.
However, Benitez could earn himself a reprieve over the winter by sanctioning a bid for wantaway Arsenal midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The Toffees were heavily linked with a move for the 24-year-old during the summer, but the Gunners ultimately refused to sanction his exit, meaning he has been largely consigned to a role on the substitutes bench ever since.
But now, the north London outfit are said to be ‘under pressure’ to sell the five-cap England international in January, after Maitland-Niles has become increasingly ‘irritated’ at his lack of game time.
According to the Daily Mail, the versatile youngster was promised regular first-team action by Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta after staying put at his boyhood club, but after receiving just 263 minutes of Premier League playing time, he now wants out once again.
And the midfielder’s frustration is likely to have been amplified after putting in a stellar performance against Watford last month, with Arteta even describing him as a ‘different player’.
“First of all, I see a different player in terms of his urgency, his commitment, the clarity in his play, his purpose,” said Arteta. “Since we made the decision (to keep him), it was clear what I was seeing that I wanted him to stay because he was going to be useful.
“He has a huge talent because he’s versatile enough to adapt to almost any position on the pitch.”
Maitland-Niles has just 18 months left to run on his current deal at Arsenal, meaning the capital club are slowly being backed into a corner and must cash in while they still can.
“You rarely get a player with his pace in that role. I would have loved that as a player. He’s a Rolls-Royce of a player at times,” he claimed.
And Maitland-Niles’ underlying numbers back up the praise from both Arteta and Keown. During his loan spell at West Brom during 2020/21, he averaged 1.5 tackles, 1.1 interceptions and 1.1 dribbles per league game, as per WhoScored.
Therefore, Benitez could seal a significant coup by finally securing Maitland-Niles’ signature, bringing in cover and competition for a variety of positions, while adding a quality player who’s yet to reach his full potential.