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Ainsley Maitland-Niles to Roma on loan?

The Arsenal midfielder (?) has played only a peripheral role this season at the Emirates.

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Arsenal v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Roma have made an official offer to sign Ainsley Maitland-Niles on loan, according to The Athletic. The Serie A side would like a permanent move but cannot afford one without selling a handful of players to fund the transfer. Presumably Maitland-Niles would be among their top targets next summer should the loan work out.

Maitland-Niles has made just 11 appearances for Arsenal this season, 8 in the Premier League (268 minutes) and 3 in the Carabao Cup (210 minutes). He reportedly feuded with Mikel Arteta earlier in the season, going so far as to post on Instagram, “all I want to do is go where I’m wanted & where I’m going to play @Arsenal,” after a reported move to Everton fell through. Arteta later said that the two met and mended fences.

It’s been the same story with Maitland-Niles for a while — he plays well in a handful of appearances, seems like he might be finding a place / regular role, and then disappears for two months. Lee Dixon has said that he thinks Maitland-Niles’ positional flexibility might be part of his own demise — a jack of all trades, master of none situation where his ability to fill multiple roles means he doesn’t specialize and develop the specific skills to lock down a regular spot in any of them. That flexibility (and his age, he’s 24) makes Arsenal loathe to part with him because he can cover right back, central midfield, and RWB / RM should the formation switch.

Given that now-tired cycle and that his contract expires after next season (2022-23), the best move for Arsenal is probably to move on from him and get what money they can. They shouldn’t sell at a cut-rate nor should they holdout and risk him walking for free. Get £10-15M for him and call it a day.

The slight complication to moving Maitland-Niles this January is Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny both off to AFCON. Arsenal are thin at the base of the midfield, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles could fill-in to rest / rotate with Granit Xhaka and Sambi Lokonga. But Arsenal’s AFCON absences are only guaranteed to miss the two legs against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup, Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, and Tottenham in the league. Should their countries advance, they’d miss Burnley in the PL on the 22nd, and if they made the final on February 6th, they might be rested for Wolves on the 10th. In other words, the short-term squeeze may not be bad enough to justify forgoing a better long-term opportunity for Arsenal and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

This move could happen quickly — The Athletic reports that Roma are keen to complete a loan move soon with important matches in the coming days and could look elsewhere if Arsenal drag their feet. Everton have also been linked with a January loan move for Maitland-Niles, reviving their interest from the summer.