The 25-year-old spent the second half of last season at Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma. That was a hugely disappointing spell, and after it became clear he had no future at Arsenal, he joined the Saints on loan in the summer. His luck there hasn’t been great either.
When Mikel Arteta first took charge of Arsenal, Maitland-Niles was a hugely important part of his side. He played a key role in helping the Gunners win the FA Cup in 2020, and his future seemed really bright at that point.
However, Maitland-Niles lost his place in the side due to his reluctance to play in central midfield. He joined West Brom on loan to play in his preferred position, but that didn’t quite work out for him.
The Englishman has really struggled since. He has only played four times for Southampton since joining them in the summer. Mikel Arteta was asked about his future and the Arsenal boss urged him to focus on the present, work his way into the Saints side and ‘start to perform’.
Mikel Arteta said, as per Arsenal.com: “Obviously, he won’t be able to play against us and as you said, he hasn’t played that much. But hopefully, he can get the minutes and can pick up some momentum as well, because we need him to play the games.
“The future that he has right now is the present. The most important thing is for him to get in there, get his place and start to perform at the level that he can.”
When asked what he needs to do to play regularly at Southampton, the Spaniard said: “It’s something for his manager now to provide the answer because he’s not with us. He needs to focus on the present which is the most important thing for his future.“
It really is sad to see Maitland-Niles struggling.
The Englishman had the world at his feet at the end of the 20219/20 campaign. He was brilliant for the Gunners as a wing-back, but he hasn’t been anywhere near as good since.
Arteta’s message is clear: Focus on the present and make sure you perform at the highest level at Southampton.
Whether Maitland-Niles will be able to do that from next weekend till the end of the season remains to be seen.