Brighton and Hove Albion are interested in signing Ainsley Maitland-Niles from Arsenal this summer, according to the Evening Standard.
As recently revealed by David Ornstein of The Athletic, the 22-year-old versatile wide man has decided his future development would be best served away from the Emirates and wants to leave the club, feeling that other academy graduates have overtaken him on the path of regular first-team members.
Having made a 14-minute cameo in the win against Premier League champions Liverpool and started the FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City last week, his appearance tally in all competitions in the Arsenal shirt stands at 98, mostly at right-back or right wing-back, with three goals and five assists. This season he has racked up 21 starts and 10 inclusions off the bench.
Head coach Mikel Arteta apparently values Maitland-Niles greatly for his versatility and wants him to stay, but he has hinted at the youngster needing to be more consistent performance-wise. His contract doesn’t expire for three more years and his classification as a home-grown player is important, but if he doesn’t want to continue at the club, it’s hard to imagine anyone, least of all Arteta, forcing him. Arsenal will likely see his desire for pastures new as an opportunity to bring in some much-needed funds for incoming transfers. Transfermarkt values him at €14.5 million (just over £13m).
Brighton are said to be monitoring the situation closely as they consider a potential swoop. They are set to lose 31-year-old Ezequiel Schelotto at the end of the month when his contract expires, and that is, presumably, where Maitland-Niles might fit into their plans, though they still have the right defensive flank covered by 29-year-old Martin Montoya and 19-year-old Tariq Lamptey.
Meanwhile, at the Emirates, the long-term contract recently signed by Cedric Soares is likely make a potential departure of Maitland-Niles bearable.
Arsenal play Aston Villa in the Premier League tonight (Tuesday), and they can be backed at 1/1 to return from the Villa Park victorious.