Mikel Arteta has opened up on Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ departure and says Arsenal will have to ‘look for options’ to replace the midfielder this month.
Maitland-Niles has joined Roma on loan until the end of the season with the 24-year-old having struggled for opportunities at Arsenal this season, making just two Premier League starts for the campaign.
Arteta says the midfielder approached him over an exit in search of regular first-team football and says the decision to allow him to leave was ‘fair’.
“Ainsley came to me and explained the reasons why he thought the best thing for him in his career right now was to move away,” he said at his pre-match press conference.
“He felt the opportunity to go to Rome and work with Jose was a good one. Being fair with the amount of minutes that he’s played he was entitled to that opportunity. We wish him the best.”
Arsenal are short in central midfield at present, however, with both Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny having departed for international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Arteta says the Gunners will ‘look for options’ in the transfer window as he bids to reinforce his squad this month.
“We are very, very short at the moment,” he continued. “But on a player, this cannot be the only argument to keep a player. He was very straight with me and I understood the situation. We are going to move and we are going to look for options because we are very short there.”
Arsenal have also been linked with the signing of a centre-forward, with uncertainty surrounding the club’s current options. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not featured since being stripped of the captaincy and is another AFCON absentee, whilst Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are out of contract at the end of the season.
Arsenal have also expected to allow Folarin Balogun to join Middlesbrough on loan until the end of the season as the 20-year-old seeks first-team football.
Arteta discussed his side’s options, but refused to comment on links to Real Sociedad striker Alexander Isak.
“We have a really special situation in that position because you are talking about players with different issues. We have to live with that. With Flo (Balogun) we will see in the next week or so what is the final decision on that.”
On Isak, he added: “You know that I can never speak about players that aren’t ours.”