Arsenal would prefer Ainsley Maitlaind-Niles to join current top-four rival over West Brom

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is out of favour at Arsenal and appears destined to leave in January
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is out of favour at Arsenal and appears destined to leave in January (Picture: Getty)

Struggling West Brom are among a number of teams pushing hard to sign Arsenal star Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but the Gunners are said to prefer the option of sending the England international to a current top for rival.

The versatile midfielder featured prominently over the course of ‘Project Restart’ for Mikel Arteta and was particularly impressive during the FA Cup semi-final and final victories, when he starred in an unfamiliar role at left wing-back.

Despite his performances in those two matches, the 23-year-old appeared to be on the verge of departing for Wolves in the summer, only for Arteta to convince him to stay, having reassured the player he remained an integral part of his plans.

It has not transpired that way, however, with a move away from the 3-4-3 system that brought success last season hindering Maitland-Niles’ opportunities.

An injury to Kieran Tierney handed Maitland-Niles a rare chance to start in the Premier League earlier this month, but he was hauled off midway through the second-half of the stalemate against Crystal Palace and hasn’t featured since.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s match against Manchester United, Arteta admitted it was a ‘concern’ that a player of Maitland-Niles’ ability was not playing on a regular basis.

He said: ‘Yes, it is a concern when there is international football involved as well and the chance to reach that opportunity.

‘I understand that Ainsley wants more minutes and what he needs to do is fight, train and challenge his teammates and show us that he can be one of our starters.’

According to The Athletic, Maitland-Niles is close to the top of Sam Allardyce’s January wishlist, but the Gunners are said to be concerned about the player joining a team mired in a relegation dogfight, particularly one that plays a very different brand of football.

An unnamed current top four team have shown interest in a player who made his senior England debut earlier this season and, despite Arsenal moving into Champions League qualifying contention following a run of five wins in their last six matches, they would prefer the player to move there before next week’s transfer deadline.

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