Mikel Arteta is poised to have another problem to solve this summer after a report put a potential Arsenal deal on very shaky ground.
Gunners boss Arteta and technical director Edu already have their work cut out in the summer. The club may need to sign two or even three new faces in the final third. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wasn’t replaced in January and both Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are free agents when the season concludes.
Elsewhere, central midfield is expected to be addressed. The Gunners targeted the position in the winter window, most notably when pursuing Juventus’ Arthur Melo.
However, that deal collapsed after the two clubs disagreed on the length of the Brazilian’s initial loan spell.
One player who could add depth to the position at no cost is Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The 24-year-old is currently on loan with Roma, though the decision to sanction that move in the first place would suggest he is not in Arteta’s plans.
Maitland-Niles struggling in Rome
Maitland-Niles is capable of operating in a number of positions, including full-back, wing-back and across the midfield. He has been primarily deployed at wing-back under Jose Mourinho in Rome, but his spell there has quickly soured.
After earning a handful of early starts, Maitland-Niles has already been marginalised.
In Roma’s latest Serie A fixture last weekend, Mourinho gave 20-year-old Nicola Zalewski his first league start for the club at left-wingback. That is the position Maitland-Niles has played in most frequently in the Italian capital.
Guendouzi will leave Arsenal this summer following successful Marseille loan
Arsenal will sell Guendouzi this summer after a successful loan at Marseille
Sport Witness (citing Roma Today) explain that decision. They state Mourinho made that call ‘by meritocracy and not by the emergency’. In other words, the manager believed Zalewski would offer more than the Arsenal loanee.
The outlet goes on to claim that is a ‘clear message of rejection’ to the alternative options, including Maitland-Niles. As such, it’s claimed the versatile star will not have his option to buy triggered.
The Mirror (citing Calciomercato) also claimed it’s unlikely Roma will retain Maitland-Niles beyond this season in late-February. They reported the option to buy is set between the £8m-£12m mark, but will be overlooked.
That all means it’s highly likely Maitland-Niles will return to Arsenal next year, at which point he’ll have just 12 months remaining on his contract.
Given he was shipped out on loan this season, common sense would dictate Arsenal will seek a permanent exit to avoid losing him for free a year later. However, because of the player’s contract status, they may not generate the level of fee they could’ve once received.
Gabriel reveals why passed on alternative Prem move
Meanwhile, Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhaes has admitted he was on the verge of signing for Everton before former Lille team-mate Nicolas Pepe convinced him to join the Gunners.
Gabriel completed a £23.4m switch to the Emirates Stadium in September 2020, with Arsenal fighting off rival clubs. It was well known at the time that Everton were in the hunt. And now the player has revealed just how close he came to joining the Merseysiders.
Speaking to Le Petit Lillois, he revealed the role Pepe played in bringing the Brazilian to north London.
“Lille are a great club, a club that sells a lot so I knew I had to show myself,” said Gabriel. “In the winter [of the 2019-2020 season] before the league stopped, I was already meant to sign for Everton. I underwent my medical, etc.
“But it didn’t get done. I had already envisioned myself leaving after that season.
“I spoke with Napoli, Everton once again, but I then chose Arsenal thanks to Nicolas Pepe, who sold the club well to me.”