Arsenal youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been a key figure for Mikel Arteta’s side this season in the Premier League but former Gunner Kevin Campbell believes the 23-year-old could look for the exit doors pretty soon.
Campbell claims Maitland-Niles is looking for constant game time at Arsenal this campaign but with Thomas Partey coming in, Arteta might not be able to grant that wish, forcing the academy graduate to look for a fresh challenge.
“I think he will pursue an exit in the summer,” he told Football Insider.
“Although he loves the club, he is an England international now – he has to play football.
“There is no point loving the club and being a bit-part player. You have proven you can do it on numerous occasions, you are a full England international and you are on the bench. That is not going to last.
“I hear Mikel Arteta is trying to convince him to stay and sign a new contract because he is now an England international.
“Which clubs let England internationals go? You do not do that. He wants to play, of course he wants to but we know football is a squad game. He wants to play in central midfield and they have just bought [Thomas] Partey to play there.
“Maitland-Niles is a good player but he is no Partey, that is for sure. He has a great engine on him, tough and can take a penalty because he is calm as a cucumber. He has loads of pluses going for him. He can fit in multiple positions and every team needs a utility man, and when your utility man is an international you need to keep him even more so.
“I can see Mikel Arteta going on the charm offensive to try and keep him at the football club.”
During the 2020-21 campaign, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has played in 10 Premier League games so far but most of them have been because Thomas has been out injured for the first half of the season.
But now that the summer signing has returned to first-team training it will be interested to see if the Arsenal boss still shows the same level of faith on Maitland-Niles for the remainder of the season.
The 23-year-old has three more years left on his current deal so the Arsenal management does not need to hit the panic button just yet. But how Arteta uses him for the rest of the year will give us an indication of what the future holds for him.