It’s not an exaggeration to say Arsenal are in a full blown crisis. Their worst start to a league season since the 1950s, no sign of a plan on the pitch, widespread discontent among fans towards pretty much every aspect of the club, and now academy products begging the club to let them leave on social media.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has had a turbulent relationship with Mikel Arteta, coming in and out of the team before being loaned out to West Bromwich Albion last season. So far this season, the England international has made one start in the EFL Cup and one substitute appearance in Arsenal’s humiliating 5-0 defeat to Man City.
Earlier on Monday, reports circulated of Everton being in discussions with Arsenal over a proposed loan move for the versatile player with an option to buy.
The 24-year-old has since has since taken to Instagram to plead with the club to let him leave.
Writing on his story, and tagging the official Arsenal account, Maitland-Niles wrote: All I wanna do is go where I’m wanted and where I’m gonna play,” adding a few crying face emojis for good measure.
With reports linking Ainsley Maitland-Niles with Everton, this is what he has just posted on his Instagram story… pic.twitter.com/IiQy8gbpfZ
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) August 30, 2021
There has been much speculation over Maitland-Niles’ preferred position over the past few years. He first broke through as a central midfielder but has played at both full-back and wing-back on both sides of the pitch, and The Athletic’s David Ornstein is now reporting that he told Arsenal he would like to play at full-back this season, in contrast to rumours of him demanding to play in midfield.
Arsenal lined up against Man City with Cedric Soares playing at right wing-back, racking up WhoScored’s worst player rating of the season so far.
Understand Maitland-Niles has stated from start of this season he’d like to play solely as a full-back (the position in which he was selected for England last year) and has never during current campaign asked to operate in midfield @TheAthleticUK #AFC #EFC https://t.co/Ayw5mmbm7k
— David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) August 30, 2021
Maitland-Niles will probably get his wish before Tuesday’s transfer deadline, but the fact that players are posting stuff like this would suggest a toxic atmosphere has taken over the Arsenal dressing room.
Reports surfaced after the Man City defeat claiming the team would hold ‘crisis talks’ led by team captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But the problems are Arsenal run deeper than the players on the pitch, and stretch back to Arteta’s time as a player.
The manager’s days are numbered, but whoever comes in faces a mountainous challenge to arrest the decline that has seen the Gunners drop to bottom of the league, with no goals scored, after three games.