Ainsley Maitland-Niles has made it clear that he’s happy to look for a new club this summer but he’s waiting for clarity from Arsenal as to how he fits into Mikel Arteta’s plans.
After a frustrating first half of the season that saw him limited to 11 Premier League appearances at the Emirates, the 23-year-old moved to West Bromwich Albion on loan in the hope of getting more time in the centre of midfield.
While Sam Allardyce was happy to grant him those minutes, the move up the pitch didn’t aid his international ambitions. Having earned five caps before Christmas playing as a full-back and wing-back, Maitland-Niles didn’t really get a look-in when Gareth Southgate went to make his selection for the European Championships. He admits it was a bitter pill to swallow.
Given Arsenal are trying to raise funds for a big squad rebuild and Arteta is unlikely to trust Ainsley with responsibilities in the centre of the park, the signs suggest he’s heading for an exit.
For now, he just wants a conversation with the club as soon as possible so he can plot his next step.
“I want a decision,” Maitland-Niles told The Telegraph (£).
“I want some clarity and then hopefully I can get to work with whoever I need to get to work with. Whether that is finding a new club or whether that is carrying on with my training. I would like some kind of indication of what is happening. Where they [Arsenal] see me. If it works out it works out, if it doesn’t then kiss Arsenal goodbye.
“It’s been a long journey but a proud one at that. Maybe they still want to do something and things could change. If not, there’s always other teams.
“It would be easier to do it now than waiting for pre-season to kick in and everything is super busy and they can’t answer their phones because they are doing too much work. You know how the football world works.
“If I was to get a phone call from someone at Arsenal and they said they’d like a meeting tomorrow, then it would be easier that way.
“They can tell me whether they’ve got plans to play me in the future or if they want to sell me. I’ve heard they want to make some space [in the squad] and some money so I’m not sure.”
Whatever the outcome of the conversation, Maitland-Niles says he’s mentally prepared.
“You have to get your head around what you might not want to hear and be prepared if that’s the case,” he says.
“Be a man about the situation. If it’s not going to work there then there’s always other clubs that will take you and I like to think that I’ve done enough in the Premier League in the last half of the season to have other clubs interested in me.”
Leicester and Southampton were both interested in Maitland-Niles in January and Wolves made a formal offer to the Gunners that was rejected last summer. Given his versatility and homegrown status, he won’t be short of suitors.