Full-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles is set to end his 18-year long association with Arsenal in the summer transfer window, as he searches for pastures new.
The five-cap England international, 23, joined the Arsenal academy at the age of six and progressed through the youth setup before breaking into the first-team squad in 2014. Aged 17 then, he made just three appearances across all competitions in his debut campaign with the Gunners’ senior team, and it was not until the 2017/18 campaign that the full-back finally started to establish himself as a regular feature for the north London giants.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has made 90 appearances across all competitions in the last three seasons combined for Arsenal. However, the current campaign saw the 23-year-old become a fringe player under Mikel Arteta and he decided to join West Brom on loan on deadline day in the January transfer window.
The Goodmayes-born talent has been an ever-present in Sam Allardyce’s West Brom side, starting all but one game in his favoured role in central midfield. The omission from Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the recently concluded World Cup Qualifiers may have sparked his desire to leave the Gunners in search of regular first-team football at a prestigious club.
Southampton are one of three Premier League clubs monitoring Maitland-Niles’ performances at West Brom with a view to a possible move in the summer.
Southampton are in need of a new full-back
Kyle Walker-Peters impressed on loan at Southampton from Tottenham in the second half of last season that earned him a permanent move to St Mary’s Stadium in August 2020. The 23-year-old has done very well in his first full season with the Saints, nailing down his position at right-back in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s starting XI.
On the other side of the defence, Ryan Bertrand hasn’t had the best of Premier League seasons and he’s out of contract at the St Mary’s Stadium in the summer. It remains to be seen what happens with Bertrand, but should he leave on a potential free transfer, Hasenhuttl will have a big void to fill.
Hasenhuttl had to rely on Yan Valery and Jake Vokins at full-back positions in Walker-Peters and Bertrand’s absence in the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in January. That clearly demonstrates the Saints’ lack of cover in the full-back department, with Sam McQueen ruled out for the season with a cruciate ligament rupture and Vokins having left the club on loan to Sunderland in the winter transfer window.
Thus, Hasenhuttl should make it one of his top priorities to address the full-back area before the 2021/22 season commences.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles would a solid addition to Southampton’s squad
Naturally a central midfielder, Maitland-Niles can play at right-back, left-back or at wing-back, and such versatility adds more value to his name. He would not only be a solid addition to Southampton’s full-back department but also can provide cover to the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Oriol Romeu and Stuart Armstrong in midfield. The England international has decent experience playing in the Premier League as well as in the Europa League, whilst having the added bonus of homegrown status.
At the age of 23, he needs to play regularly to fulfil his potential and a move to Southampton should help him do that. Therefore, the Saints must go all out to sign Maitland-Niles from Arsenal.