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Roma Linked With Versatile Arsenal Defender Ainsley Maitland-Niles

The Arsenal defender could plug multiple holes for Roma this winter, including both full-back roles.

Arsenal v Watford - Premier League Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Over the last several months, and really since the summer transfer market ended without Tiago Pinto landing José Mourinho a defensive midfielder, we’ve seen the Giallorossi linked with a number of players to fill that role, most notably Denis Zakaria early on and Florian Grillitsch over the past couple of weeks.

Nevertheless, as much as the media pushes Grillitsch to Roma, Pinto has been hard to read in his short time as DS, often holding his cards close to the vest, much like Roma’s owner, Dan Friedkin. Throw in the fact that Pinto recently told DAZN that 90% of what is read in the rumor mill is false and who knows if Grillitsch or any other names linked to Mourinho’s squad is truly an option to arrive—Boy, you’ve got to love silly season.

And now there’s a new name being linked to Roma, Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles:

ESPN recently reported that Pinto is in talks with Arsenal to bring 24-year-old English midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles to the Italian capital from London. The formula for the potential move is a loan with an option to buy, but no figures are being reported as of yet, though a four-year deal was mentioned in the event of an eventual permanent transfer.

Maitland-Niles has been part of the Arsenal youth system since he was six-years-old but nearly left the club this summer after a successful loan spell at West Brom last spring. According to the report, Mikel Arteta convinced him to stay but has used him sparingly this season.

Maitland-Niles has seen very limited minutes with the Gunners so far, accumulating just 268 league minutes in eight appearances (two starts) and another 210 in the league cup. Nevertheless, he presents an intriguing option for the Giallorossi, who are in need of depth both in the midfield and at right-back.

This season, and the latter half of last with West Brom, Maitland-Niles has featured exclusively in the midfield. However, he was the epitome of positional versatility prior to that loan spell. During the first half of the 2020/21 season, before heading to West Brom, Maitland-Niles made 21 appearances for Arsenal across all competitions. Those appearances were spread across five positions: central midfield, left midfield, right midfield, left-back, and right-back. That flexibility earned the praises of Arteta and likely attracted the eye of Pinto, who is expected to beef up midfield and right-back for Mourinho in January while remaining fiscally responsible.

Maitland-Niles doesn’t stuff the stat sheet going forward, but the numbers show that he's a responsible defensive player. This season in Premier League action, he averages 12.3 ball recoveries per 90, which puts him ahead of any current Roma player, while his 2.33 tackles per 90 would rank him second among Roma’s regulars in that category.

Adding Mailtand-Niles could free up Bryan Cristante and Jordan Veretout to play more offensive roles, while also giving Mourinho a viable option to spell Rick Karsdorp at right back.

Maitland-Niles can potentially fill two of Roma’s positional needs this winter, so what do you think of this transfer rumor? Could it be just what the doctor ordered?