The summer transfer window saw Ainsley Maitland-Niles linked with all manner of moves away from the Emirates Stadium.
Wolverhampton Wanderers were most heavily tipped to sign the 23-year-old, before predictably recruiting a flurry of Portuguese players and Brazilian full-back Marcal.
Manchester United were next in line to test Arsenal’s resolve over the versatile academy graduate, but unltimately Maitland-Niles stayed put.
To many, it was perplexing that Arsenal would be ready to part with one of their most underrated first-team players. Mikel Arteta’s overhaul has led the club into a new agent-driven era of recruitment, punctuated by young players either returning to the first-team fold, like Eddie Nketiah, or being brought in, like Gabriel Magalhaes.
These are individuals of a similar age to Maitland-Niles, who theoretically could strike up a good working relationship with. Selling him would have been at odds with the club’s recent transfer policy of liquidating the old guard’s influence on dressing room affairs by shipping them elsewhere.
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Maitland-Niles offers Mikel Arteta versatility across the pitch, both in a positional sense and the multiple functions he can carry out in different areas. He is one of the Premier League’s most ‘undefined’ players, fielded as a right-back, right wing-back, central midfielder and this season, a left wing-back.
Losing that flexibility in team selection for a sum in the region of £20million is not fair recompense for the utility role he can adequately perform in a number of areas.
On the pitch, Maitland-Niles is comfortably one of Arsenal’s hardest workers. He is in fact, one of the Premier League’s best pressers, successfully gaining possession within five seconds of applying pressure to an opponent six times per 90 last season, according to FBRef.com.
Extrapolated across Europe’s…