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Arsenal could be close to first January signing amid talk of Ainsley Maitland-Niles deal
25/12/2021 10:22:50

The biggest clue regarding Arsenal's priority for the January transfer window may have just been dropped.

According to ESPN, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is subject of interest from Serie A giants AS Roma.

Furthermore, the report states that Roma are in talks regarding a loan deal after the club's sporting director Tiago Pinto made contact with Arsenal to explore the possibility of signing the midfielder next month.

It is also claimed that Maitland-Niles is open to a switch and that Roma are keen to discuss a loan move that includes an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the season.

Whilst, no potential fee for a permanent deal has been negotiated, discussions are said to have centered around a four-year contract for the versatile 24-year-old.

Maitland-Niles hasn't featured for Arsenal since the 1-0 win over Watford at the beginning of November, earning praise from Mikel Arteta in the process.

"First of all, I see a different player in terms of his urgency, his commitment, the clarity in his play, his purpose," the Gunners manager told reporters. "Since we made the decision, it was clear what I was seeing that I wanted him to stay, because he was going to be useful.

"He has a huge talent because he’s versatile enough to adapt to almost any position on the pitch. Today we made use of him to do what he had to do in the game, which was really important.

"When I see him in training sessions, when I see how he prepares, when I see the questions he’s asking, his level of attention. Everything you talk through, his response is immediate. He’s a really clever boy, really clever, really intelligent.

"I think he needs to able to transmit that, and how much he cares, with his body language and his determination. He's come a long way."

As Arteta mentioned, the club made a decision in the summer transfer window to keep hold of Maitland-Niles amid links to Everton on deadline day.

At the time, it was unclear as to if it was the right decision especially with competition for places in midfield and at right-back increasing following the arrival of Albert Sambi Lokonga and Takehiro Tomiyasu.

With that said, Maitland-Niles did benefit from Granit Xhaka's injury layoff as he did make five appearances across all competitions in the Swiss midfielder's absence.

Although only two were as a starter with Lokonga the preferred option alongside Thomas Partey.

As a result, it would appear that Arsenal are now willing to let Maitland-Niles leave and as early as the January transfer window.

Considering Partey and Mohamed Elneny are about to leave the Gunners short of options in midfield - and for up to a month because of the Africa Cup of Nations - it does make the decision to open talks with Roma all the more interesting.

Without the aforementioned duo, Arteta's senior midfield options will be Xhaka, Lokonga and Maitland-Niles. To get through January with three midfielders is a tough ask, let alone just two.

So allowing the latter to leave just might make Arsenal's January transfer plans all the more clearer as it seems certain they will look to sign a central midfielder or two.

Perhaps being in talks with Roma means the club are already closing in on the signing for their first January deal in terms of incomings.

Renato Sanches, Georginio Wijnaldum and Mattias Svanberg are just a few central midfielders being tipped to join the Gunners next month, maybe one deal is at an advanced stage?

After all, as per The Mirror, Sanches has a ‘gentleman's agreement’ in place with Lille that would allow him to leave the club in the winter transfer window.

Could his next destination be the Emirates Stadium?

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