Ainsley Maitland-Niles confirms impending Arsenal exit

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has confirmed his intention to leave Arsenal in the summer when his contract runs out and he becomes a free-agent.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles will end his time at Arsenal as he seeks a new challenge from next season onwards. The 25-year-old utility man has been on the Gunners’ books since his early days, and he remains one of the top prospects out of their academy.

Having started his career in various roles, Maitland-Niles consistently reiterated his desire to play in midfield but was hardly afforded the opportunity. While he only played minimally under Arsene Wenger, the real opportunity came under Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta.

Arteta started using him in a full-back role on the right side, which was inverted. Maitland-Niles played a massive part in Arsenal’s success in the FA Cup in the Spaniard’s first half-season in charge. However, things have been rocky since for the 25-year-old utility man.

While Arteta wanted to keep him, he did not guarantee Maitland-Niles a midfield berth. After spending the second half of last season at Roma, he returned to the club for pre-season but then joined Southampton on loan. At St. Mary’s, he’s played in midfield occasionally but mostly occupies the right-back slot.

With his contract expiring at the Emirates, Arsenal are already looking out for star midfielders. Declan Rice remains their main objective, but there are links to add another player in the central position.

Now, Maitland-Niles has confirmed he will not stay at the club and will look for a new opportunity in the summer. His contract originally expires this summer. But according to David Ornstein of The Athletic, Arsenal will not trigger the option of extending his deal.

Maitland-Niles said, “It’s been a great journey, but it has ended now (at Arsenal). 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.”

It remains to be seen where Maitland-Niles prolongs his career beyond the summer. Some clubs will be keen to take the 25-year-old utility man, as he could still grow under the right coaching. From his comments, he also stated he could open the doors to stay at Southampton. But the Saints are in real danger of suffering relegation.

Some newly-promoted sides like Burnley could look at him, especially given he will become a free agent in the summer. Other Premier League sides like West Ham United, Crystal Palace or even Fulham could look at the 25-year-old and allow him to prolong his career in London.

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