Mikel Arteta has explained the decision to let Ainsley Maitland-Niles depart on loan for Roma, saying the player came to him to ask to leave.
The 24 year old looked to be on the verge of departure in the summer window, even posting on Instagram about his unhappiness that a deal to Everton didn’t go through. He stayed, and did play when needed, but has just over 250 Premier League minutes to his name.
An approach from Roma saw Maitland-Niles have a forthright conversation his manager, asking for the opportunity to leave and play more regularly – and the Spaniard didn’t stand in his way.
“Well, Ainsley came to to me and explained the reasons why he thought the best thing for him and his career right now was to move away,” revealed Arteta at his press conference this afternoon.
“He believed that the opportunity of Roma and working with Jose was a really good one. We already had this conversation in the summer and we decided to keep him at the club and assess the situation in December.
“Being fair, with the amount of minutes he’s played, he was entitled to that opportunity, and when a player feels that way – and has a strong argument like he had – it’s very difficult to turn that away.
“So, we decided to let him go and wish him the best.”
The fact that it leaves his squad light in central midfield was something that Arteta had to reckon with, but he felt that the best decision in the end was to sanction the departure, and look for a replacement in the transfer market.
“We are very, very short at the moment,” he said loudly for the owners and the board to hear (!).
“But to be fair to the player, that cannot be the only argument to try and keep someone, and a player that has been developed and raised through our Academy. A player who has been patient in many moments to try try to fulfil his dream.
“He was very straight with me and I understood the situation, so I think it’s a good option.
“Obviously we are going to move, and we are going to look for options because we are very short there.”
Best of luck to Ainsley, and let’s see what the transfer market brings.