Ainsley Maitland-Niles has completed a loan move to Roma from Arsenal until the end of the season.
The Arsenal academy graduate, whose contract expires in the summer of 2023, has started just two Premier League games this season but will hope he can kickstart his career under former Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho in Italy, alongside former Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham.
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“I am just delighted to be here and can’t wait to crack on. I want to help the team and show what I can do as a player,” England international Maitland-Niles said.
“Thank you to the fans for the support they have already shown me – I hope we can go on to do something great by the end of the season.”
Mourinho will be hoping the utility player, deployed at wing-back and central midfield, can make an impact after an inconsistent start to the season has left Roma seventh after 20 games, six points outside the top four.
What went wrong for Maitland-Niles at Arsenal?
Maitland-Niles began the season by publicly pleading for a transfer exit in the final days of the summer window after interest from Everton, writing on Instagram: “All I wanna do is go where I’m wanted and where I’m gonna play.”
But after holding clear-the-air talks with manager Mikel Arteta it was decided the 24-year-old midfielder would stay until at least January and fight for his place in the team.
Maitland-Niles has since struggled for consistent game time this season – at full-back and in central midfield – and it has been decided he will leave on loan for a second consecutive season.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest, the Gunners manager said: “Ainsley came to me and explained reasons why he thought the best thing for his career is to move away and the opportunity in Rome and working under Jose (Mourinho) was good one.
“We already had this conversation in the summer and said to reassess in December. When a player has strong argument like he had, it’s very difficult to turn him away.
“We’re very shot at the moment, but this shouldn’t be the only reason for keeping a player. Ainsley has been developed and raised through our academy and was very patient in many moments in trying to fulfil his dream.
“He was very straight with me and I understood the situation. Obviously, we’re going to move and look for options as we’re very shot there.”
Last winter, he was recruited by Sam Allardyce to play for West Brom, who were eventually relegated.
Analysis: Arsenal left light in midfield
Sky Sports’ Nick Wright:
Maitland-Niles’ Premier League playing time this season amounts to just 265 minutes but Arsenal’s willingness to let him leave midway through the season is surprising nonetheless.
The Gunners are, after all, about to lose both Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny to Africa Cup on Nations duty, leaving Granit Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga as their only senior options.
Maitland-Niles would surely have been useful during that period, especially given Arsenal’s hectic schedule, but instead they have granted him his wish for more regular playing time.
It may indicate Arsenal are preparing to bring in midfield reinforcements from elsewhere this month.
For Maitland-Niles, meanwhile, the question is whether he can make his long-desired transformation from versatile squad member to regular starter under the guidance of Jose Mourinho over in Italy.
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