Mikel Arteta says he’s happy to retain the services of Ainsley Maitland-Niles this season after denying the England international a move to Everton.
The Toffees are understood to have approached the Gunners with a loan move for the 24-year-old in the closing days of the transfer window but unlike in January, when they sanctioned Ainsley’s six-month stint with West Bromwich Albion, Edu and Mikel Arteta didn’t deem the offer acceptable.
In response, the player, clearly frustrated, fired off a hot-headed response on social media which led to ‘clear the air’ talks and a disciplining.
Having initially been sent to train alone, Maitland-Niles was quickly reintegrated into squad sessions and played in the behind-closed-doors friendly against Brentford last week. With Mohamed Elneny injured and Granit Xhaka suspended, it’s expected he’ll be on the bench for this weekend’s game against Norwich.
In his pre-game press conference, Arteta was asked for an update on Ainsley’s status in the squad.
“Any private conversations with players about what role they can have in the team is always discussed openly [with them] but privately,” said the Spaniard. “That’s the way that one is that is resolved.
“I am happy that he has stayed. It was our intention and he’s another player in our squad.”
On how Ainsley has responded, he added: “The response [came] after the conversation that we had privately to explain and put on the table our feelings; what we have to do and why we’ve decided something different from what we decided a few months ago when we allowed him to go to West Brom. Then he has embraced the opportunity and the chance.
“He knows that he has a unique quality in any squad, which is his versatility to play in many positions and he needs to become the best at doing that. It’s something that is very rare in football.”
So, no pressure, Ainsley…just get really good at everything and then we’ll play you when you’re needed in a position which is yet to be decided. It does feel like we’re back to square one again on this.