Ainsley Maitland-Niles is ready to return to Arsenal after the end of his loan spell with Roma, whom he has thanked for his experience there.
Maitland-Niles found himself frustrated after being unable to leave Arsenal last summer. They finally relented in January when they let him go on loan to Roma. It represented his first time playing for a foreign club.
Joining forces with Jose Mourinho, it was predicted that Maitland-Niles would provide cover for Roma in the full-back positions and midfield.
However, it also seemed clear from the outset that they were targeting him as a backup player. In the end, he started seven times in Serie A and made one substitute appearance.
Furthermore, he started once in the Coppa Italia but only lasted the first half. In Roma’s Europa Conference League success, he started both legs of the round of 16 and came on briefly in the second leg of the quarter-final.
Yet Maitland-Niles never got the opportunity to play in central midfield for Roma. Nor did he end the season as Mourinho’s main choice in either wing-back role.
However, he is still reflecting on the experience as a positive one, despite it having become clear that he will be returning to Arsenal.
He posted a picture of himself with the Conference League trophy on Instagram, adding the message: “Great way to end the season.
“Thank you to the Roma fans, players and staff for embracing me and believing in me as one of their own for the short period of time spent at the club. What an experience and to be a part of history with the club.”
Maitland-Niles likely to come back to Arsenal after disappointing Roma spell with Mourinho
Jose Mourinho hasn’t been that impressed by Arsenal midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles at Roma during his loan spell
And despite his relative lack of starts, Maitland-Niles will be missed by the Roma head coach, Mourinho.
Mourinho commented: “We will miss you. One of us.”
Roma will now be looking for a new right-back to compete with Rick Karsdorp. Coincidentally, they have been linked with another man who was loaned out by Arsenal this season, Hector Bellerin.
Diogo Dalot or Aaron Wan-Bissaka of Manchester United are two other familiar targets to have been mentioned.
Maitland-Niles must consider new Arsenal exit route
As for Maitland-Niles, Arsenal will have to work out a new plan. His contract at the Emirates Stadium is due to expire in 2023.
He was unafraid to share how unhappy he was at the club last year. Therefore, it may be tough for them to convince him to stay.
During the first half of the season, he only started two Premier League matches among eight appearances. In the Carabao Cup, he came on once and started twice.
If he was to return to his parent club, Maitland-Niles would have to compete for his place. At right-back, he would be up against Takehiro Tomiyasu, who has been fairly solid, and Cedric Soares.
On the opposite flank of defence, Kieran Tierney is the regular starter. There are some doubts about his backup Nuno Tavares, but Maitland-Niles likely wants a starting role.
In midfield, he is unlikely to get it either. There, Arsenal have Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Albert Sambi Lokonga. Partey has admirers elsewhere, but the Gunners are looking at their own signings in his role anyway.
Therefore, Maitland-Niles should start afresh this summer. He cannot be blamed for trying his luck abroad. Roma just wasn’t the right fit for him in the end.
Whether he tests himself elsewhere in Europe or finds another Premier League opportunity remains to be seen.