After a failed move in the summer, Everton are reportedly prepared to make a January swoop for Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
According to an exclusive report from ESPN, Everton are poised to set their sights on Ainsley Maitland-Niles once again. They have identified the English utility man as a potential January target, taking advantage of the his precarious situation at the Emirates right now.
The Toffees were even linked with a late summer swoop for Maitland-Niles. But a loan move was blocked by Arsenal at the eleventh hour, frustrating the player, who later posted a controversial story on Instagram over his lack of game-time. However, it appears Everton are prepared to offer him a lifeline by completing a permanent swoop in January.
Arsenal have received a fair amount of criticism for the treatment of their academy star. Mikel Arteta, though, is insistent that the Englishman, who was coming on the back of a rather successful loan stint at West Bromwich Albion last season, is included in his first-team plans and is likely being considered as a utility player.
It might not bode well for Maitland-Niles, who can play right-back but prefers to play in a central midfield role. He played in a similar position for West Brom last season, though it remains unlikely that Everton are considering him for such a role. In fact, Rafael Benitez could be primarily targeting the 23-year-old as a potential successor for Seamus Coleman.
The long-serving right-back is in the final phase of his career and recently picked up a hamstring injury during the international break. It has effectively limited Benitez’s options and the Toffees will certainly rue not meeting Genk’s demands for Daniel Munoz in the summer.
But in Maitland-Niles, Benitez sees a better investment option as the former Arsenal prodigy has a lot of experience in English football, having made a total of 123 competitive appearances for the Gunners. He is also quite ambitious and is perfectly suited to Benitez’s style of football.
However, it remains to be seen whether Arsenal would want to lose out on another right-back after sanctioning the loan deal for Hector Bellerin. Their current crop of right-backs in Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares have grossly underperformed, so a lot will depend on how Takehiro Tomiyasu fares.
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The Japanese international can operate as a right-back and is the one who is primarily standing in the way of Maitland-Niles from achieving a more prominent role in the squad. So it will be interesting to see how the season pans out for the two of them over the next few months.