Southampton have confirmed that Arsenal midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles has joined them on a season long loan. The loan includes an undisclosed purchase option. As Maitland-Niles’ Arsenal contract expires at the end of the season, the club have taken up the option in the player’s contract to extend his stay for a further year, ensuring that, should Southampton wish to sign the player, they will have to pay a fee, rather than on the expiration of his deal.
Maitland-Niles’ move away from the club has been a very drawn out process throughout the summer. Interest was registered from a number of clubs including Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, but Southampton were the quickest to complete a deal.
The move could potentially end Maitland-Niles’ nearly 19-year association with the club, having come through the coveted Hale End academy and eventually being handed his debut by manager Arsène Wenger.
Despite this, Maitland-Niles has never been a permanent fixture of the Arsenal side, having been sent out on loan three times, while registering 132 appearances in all competitions.
Last season, Maitland-Niles was personally recruited by AS Roma manager José Mourinho to fill the void affecting midfield. Maitland-Niles’ stint in Serie A was forgettable to say the least, with the player making a grand total of 12 apperances.
Maitland-Niles has often been described as a “problem child” by many around the club. Frequent and somewhat petulant social media posts begging Arsenal for a move away from the club have undoubtedly soured his relationship with fans and board alike.
While the player enjoyed a good run of form under Unai Emery, he was often deployed as a right wingback, a position that he reportedly disliked.
When Mikel Arteta took over from Emery in 2019, he took a dim view of Maitland-Niles’s reluctance to play where he was told, resulting in the player making very few appearances.
Despite the recent injuries to midfielders Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny, Maitland-Niles has been allowed to leave, with many hoping that a fresh start will be beneficial to both club and player.
In the event that Southampton do not take up the purchase option included in the deal, Maitland-Niles will return to Arsenal next summer, likely facing the prospect of a much less impressive move.
Maitland-Niles is likely to be one of the final pieces of business the club conducts this summer. Héctor Bellerín’s future is poised to join Barcelona, while Arsenal are scrambling to complete a deal for Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz.
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