After missing out on several domestic targets, West Brom’s attentions have turned to a new home-grown star ahead of Monday’s deadline…
According to The Athletic’s David Ornstein, the Baggies are ‘pushing hard’ to sign Arsenal midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles on loan for the remainder of the season.
It’s claimed that the 23-year-old is in need of regular minutes if he’s to remain in Gareth Southgate’s England plans ahead of the summer’s European Championships.
Albion face competition from an unnamed ‘top-four side’ and they will need to convince the Gunners as they have reservations over him joining a relegation candidate as well as Sam Allardyce’s style of football.
This would be quite the move from West Brom as Maitland-Niles offers vast versatility which could benefit Big Sam tenfold.
Primarily a central midfielder, the 3-cap England international has featured on both flanks as a winger as well as a full-back this season alone. Over the course of 223 career appearances, the Hale End youth product has played in seven different positions.
As BT Sport and Daily Mail pundit Chris Sutton once said, ‘the young man’s versatility is a weapon’ before adding: ‘He is such a versatile talent – a diamond.’
The Baggies are sitting in a perilous position right now and could do with bodies across the pitch and that’s what Maitland-Niles would evidently bring.
It’s no wonder local Express & Star journalist Joseph Masi believes it would be “a major coup” to seal his signature. It really would be.
64 of those aforementioned appearances have come in the Premier League with another 30 games coming from the Europa League, via Transfermarkt.
That’s just experience that Big Sam does not have right now in any of his players, and that’s remarkable considering he’s still only 23.
“He’s got all the attributes to become a top player,” explained former Gunners striker Jeremie Aliadiere only 18 months ago.
The Arsenal man appears to be very defensively-sound, averaging 1.7 tackles per game throughout the course of his career, whilst an average of one dribble per game suggests he likes to get forward and is a hard man to get the ball off, per WhoScored.
Those tackling figures merely highlight his impressive work-rate too.
Football Insider pundit Kevin Campbell said: “He has a great engine on him,” whilst only last month Peter Crouch told BT Sport (via the Metro): “I think he’s tremendous, I really like him. He’s got energy and he’s calm on the ball. He was full of confidence.”
“You can tell he’s got the gears,” added Martin Keown. “He’s a Rolls-Royce of a player at times.”
By comparison, Romaine Sawyers has struggled as a deep-lying playmaker, averaging only 0.4 dribbles per game as Albion’s worst-rated regular starter, via WhoScored.
Maitland-Niles is everything Big Sam needs right now – versatility, experience and quality in abundance, and given he’s only earning around £35k-per-week in north London, he’d be a bargain and cheap loan deal for the second half of the season.
Dowling must convince Maitland-Niles and Arsenal into this move before Monday. It could be huge for their survival bid.