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Maitland-Niles: I didn’t want to rot away on Arsenal’s bench

The versatile 23-year-old joined West Brom on loan from the Gunners in January and has been a regular starter

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has revealed he swapped Arsenal for a loan spell at West Brom for fear of “rotting away” on the bench at the Emirates Stadium.

The versatile midfielder – who can also operate at full-back – played a key part as Arsenal won the FA Cup last season, but struggled for minutes at the start of the current campaign and accepted a loan move to West Brom in the January transfer window.

He is ensconced in a relegation battle, but is operating in his preferred midfield position and is happy to be playing rather than watching from the sidelines.

What’s been said?

“It’s another loan deal, you are going to end up going back to the club eventually,” Maitland-Niles told talkSPORT.

“It was just more of a chance for me to show what I’m capable of other than sitting on the bench for the rest of the season and rotting away.

“The main reason was being able to play as there’s nothing better than playing. I felt it would be great to experience the work of people trying to save their careers and stay in the Premier League.

“I think it was the perfect fit for me to be here and show them the qualities I can produce.”

Does Maitland-Niles have a future at Arsenal?

This is the question the player will be asking himself. He expects to be back at the club for pre-season, but he will have a severe fight to gain a place in the centre of midfield.

If Thomas Partey can return to a consistent level of fitness, he will be an automatic selection, while Granit Xhaka, Emile Smith Rowe and Dani Ceballos are also pushing for starts – albeit the latter is on loan at the club.

Martin Odegaard is another player who could come into the equation, should his loan move from Real Madrid be made permanent.

Gunners captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang expects Maitland-Niles to return, and challenge him as the speed king of the Arsenal squad, but his best hope of regular action could be at full-back.

When asked about the fastest players at the club, Aubameyang said: “Top three, apart from me, you put me on the side, I think Kieran Tierney.

“He (Tierney) asked me to do a race against him because the stats are talking for him, maybe he is quicker than me, so let’s do it.

“Then I think it was Ains. He left but he will come back, so we can do a race whenever and Reiss [Nelson] is there as well.”

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