Arsenal have confirmed that Ainsley Maitland-Niles will spend the remainder of the season on loan at Serie A side AS Roma. Arsenal had initially hoped to include a either a purchase clause or obligation into the deal, but Roma’s well-documented financial struggles, which also saw them pull out of a deal for Granit Xhaka in the summer, prevented this,
Maitland-Niles has been looking for an escape route from the club for some time, after almost getting a move to Everton in the summer, however, the move was blocked, which led to the England youngster sharing a message on Instagram claiming, in no uncertain terms, that he wished to be moved on from the club, in the pursuit of more game time.
Maitland-Niles first broke into the team in December 2014, as Arsenal thumped Galatasaray, appearing in the Premier League for the first time a few days later.
From there, Maitland-Niles was loaned out to Ipswich Town for a season, where he impressed manager Mick McCarthy and won the club’s Player of the Month award for September.
After this, Maitland-Niles struggled to maintain a place in the team and when Arsène Wenger left, the youngster was asked to deputise at left full-back, a position he was not in favour of.
It is understood that Maitland-Niles has asked to play in central midfield throughout his career, yet has not received assurances of game time. He asked to play at full-back this season, however, he has yet to be given a chance to prove himself, with Mikel Arteta preferring to trust Calum Chambers and Cédric Soares over himself and Héctor Bellerín.
Maitland-Niles spent six months of last season on loan at West Bromwich Albion, where he impressed manager Sam Allardyce, however, the club opted against making the move permanent.
Since the arrival Albert Sambi Lokonga, Maitland-Niles has found it more difficult to find game time in the middle of the park and Takehiro Tomiyasu’s new moniker as Mr. Dependable has further disrupted his route to the first team. The club’s lack of involvement in European competitions has also harmed his appearance figures as the club are unable to find sufficient game time for him, a similar situation which has affected the likes of Mohamed Elneny, Folarian Balogun, Nicolas Pépé, Eddie Nketiah, Cédric Soares, Bernd Leno and Pablo Marí.
Though Maitland-Niles has been in the first-team fold this season, the lack of game time has likely impacted his overall decision.
Roma and Arsenal have been reported to be open to discussing a potential deal towards the end of the loan deal, with Arsenal reportedly demanding as high as £15m for the midfielder, while Roma will use the remaining time to fetch sums for Pau López, Justin Kluivert and Cengiz Ünder so as to fund the deal.
This move does now leave Arsenal with something of a conundrum. With Maitland-Niles departure and with both Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny leaving for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), Arsenal currently only have 2 able-bodied midfielders, Granit Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga.
Calum Chambers and Ben White have been known to fill in in the midfield at previous clubs, but neither would be an ideal solution to the problem and youngster Charlie Patino is still a little too raw to be thrown into the deep end just now.
Rumours have swirled that Arsenal are interested in loaning Georginio Wijnaldum from Paris Saint-Germain until the end of the season to help out. Wijnaldum has only been at the French club for 6-months, however, they may be willing to allow him to leave in pursuit of some much-needed game time.