Ainsley Maitland-Niles has told The Athletic that he will leave Arsenal as a free agent in the summer.
The England international joined the club when he was six and burst through the ranks as a teenager to make his debut for Arsene Wenger in the Champions League when he was only 17.
Valued for his versatility, he played in both full-back positions and across midfield, making 132 appearances for the club since 2014.
His most successful spell for the club came in the months after Mikel Arteta took over as manager when he was deployed as a left wing-back. His performances helped the Gunners to FA Cup success in 2020 and earned him the first of five England caps.
That should have been the foundation on which to build himself a solid career at the Emirates but it hasn’t panned out that way. Unconvinced about playing in defence, he fell out of favour and then had his head turned by opportunities elsewhere. When moves to Wolves and Everton fell through in consecutive summers, it was clear he wasn’t happy.
He subsequently embarked on loan spells with West Bromwich Albion and AS Roma before joining Southampton for the current campaign back in September.
The Gunners did have the option to extend Maitland-Niles’ current deal by another 12 months but have opted against that. In so doing, Southampton’s option to buy the player has been cancelled, meaning the 25-year-old is in charge of his own destiny. He says he’d happily stay at St. Mary’s but it’s hard to imagine that if they end up getting relegated.
“It’s been a great journey but it has come to an end now (at Arsenal),” he told The Athletic.
“It’s time for a fresh start and to find a new home. I’m looking forward to that but, at the same time, my head’s not quite there yet and it’s all about what’s happening now with Southampton.
“I’m just fully focused on trying to help us stay up and stay positive on a day-to-day basis and win games. When the time gets closer towards the end of the season, I’ll have something else to think about. But right now, I’m just focused on football and the task at hand.
“Southampton is a great club to be at and progress and get some minutes under my belt. Of course, if they were to make an offer, I’ll be more than happy to stay.”
From the look of things, the feeling is mutual. I wish him all the best in his next club.
It is….Just very bad business…I thought we were past that point…I wonder if he would have been able to let Ben white play in central defence in the absence of Saliba….all in the past now…
His ice-cool penalties will be fondly remembered, the endless debate about his position not so much.
Gutted to see him leave for nothing, but I wish him well.
Yes…had an overestimation of his abilities…hope he can keep his ego in check and eke out a decent career… always sad to see a hale ender go for nothing…
We should have taken the £20m from Wolves in 2020.
Hindsight is always … at the time, rejecting 20m for him didn’t seem as stupid as it does now.
I guess all I’d like to think is that now we’d operate differently. Arteta must have known the ceiling of his ability but I doubt he had the confidence to tell our sales personnel, who sent him on the loans to WBA & Roma hoping he’d come back a more marketable player, when it was never likely and all those loans did was erode his contract. Won’t be popular with everyone, in the same way as the idea of selling AMN wasn’t, but we’ll see if the club have learnt anything in keeping, selling or loaning some of our non-integral… Read more »
Arguably yes, but then is 25M for Joe Willock good money today when he’s on the verge of an England call up and looks like he’s grown into his potential. Hindsight…
At the time we all thought he was worth more than that. And he still is. He doesn’t have the focus for passing game with hyper perfect patterns of play and concentration. But by heck in a cup game full of transitions. There was no one better. And he won us that FA cup with his sheer will to get up and down that left tpuchline.
Yeh his best game in our shirt on FA cup final day, sadly his potential to be a top player for us just faded away, 132 appearances for us is also a bar of how good he was, hopefully he finds another club in PL next season with a manager who knows how to get the best out of him.
Should of taken that offer from Wolves a year ago. But never mind. Probably the right thing for him to move on, just wish it wasn’t for free!
What only could have been…
Maybe playing at right back for arsenal in the last three games!!! But he didn’t want to pin that position down so hey ho!!!
Exacto Mundo! Pity. Hope he goes on to have a decent career. Could only think what MA would have done for his development.
Good luck to the boy… he’s a good little player, and as a footballer is about playing not sitting on the bench waiting for your chances..
Its not always about money its purely playing 90mins one or twice a week .
Shame really, if he was just willing to play wherever the manager wanted to play him, he could have possibly been playing a crucial RB role in a team that’s experiencing defensive injury issues during a title run in…you hear players over the years saying stuff like “i’ll play in goal if the gaffer wants me to”, I get players are humans with differing desires and stuff, but when factoring in that he’s in a very privileged job that millions of people would kill to be in, just seems he should have been a bit more grateful to had even… Read more »
Interestingly, his ability to play midfield and left back might have made him a decent backup to Zinchenko. Perhaps in a way, he was the prototype for that hybrid role, that’s how I’d like to think of his Arsenal legacy! Well, that and those penalties.
Why didn’t we take the £20m for him – the club knew about any potential temperament/attitude he may have had then. Any good form he had then was clearly temporary. If Martinez and Willock are considered good sale decisions this definitely isn’t!
He’s going to spend his career bouncing up and down from the championship all because he refused to do the hard work to compliment his natural talent. Sad.
Can’t help but continue to feel the damage that was done during the Raul era. How many players began to distrust the club with their careers.
Such a shame the rot wasn’t stopped before it was too late.
It’s a shame,.still think there is a very capable and intelligent player in there.
But may be his self appraisal and expectations got in his way.
Applaud the self belief, but does not work all the time.
All the best, still a lot he can do.
In hindsight it’s too easy to say that we should have sold him to Wolves for £20m. They made that offer 3 weeks after his performance in the FA Cup final.
The club likely assumed that we had an asset on our hands with a potential way higher than £20m.
We could have accepted that offer, he could have been brilliant for Wolves, gone on to be an England squad regular, increased his valuation to £40m, and people would say we shouldn’t have sold him.