Arsenal have seen some success in the past couple of years with younger players pushing their way into the first time. while guys like Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka are now considered as key members of the first-team squad.
There’s a second tier of younger talents who are caught in an in-between stage of being good Premier League players but they don’t get enough chances to start – Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles would be the best examples.
Willock has been excellent with Newcastle United during a loan spell and he should get an opportunity next season, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles also did well at West Brom and it’s understandable that he doesn’t want to return to a back-up role where he’s only getting to start in the cups.
One of his biggest issues over the years has been his versatility as he’s often plugged into gaps to cover injury rather than being allowed to carve out his own role in the team.
Opinions will be split over whether he’s a midfielder or a wing-back but a report from The Telegraph has looked at an interview with him, and it’s rare to see a player being this upfront and honest:
“I want a decision. I want some clarity. And then hopefully I can get to work with whoever I need to get to work with. Whether that is finding a new club or whether that is carrying on with my training. I would like some kind of indication of what is happening. Where they [Arsenal] see me. If it works out it works out, if it doesn’t then kiss Arsenal goodbye.
“It’s been a long journey but a proud one at that. Maybe they still want to do something and things could change. If not, there’s always other teams. It would be easier to do it now than waiting for pre-season to kick in and everything is super busy. And they can’t answer their phones because they are doing too much work. You know how the football world works.”
In many ways you have to admire his determination to forge forward with his career to become a key player somewhere else if it can’t happen at Arsenal, and it’s much more respectable than a player being happy to sit around and collect a wage.
Realistically it’s hard to think that his Arsenal situation has changed so he’s probably going to be seen as a versatile back-up at this point, and it does suggest that he may have to push for an exit this summer.