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‘I would have liked to stay at Arsenal’ – Ex-Gunners star makes admission after Arteta decision forced him out

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has admitted that he would have preferred to remain at Arsenal instead of going out on loan several times – which led to a permanent exit when his contract expired in June 2023.

He was a regular under Arsene Wenger during the Frenchman’s last two seasons at the club and also saw plenty of action under Unai Emery.

However, the arrival of Mikel Arteta in December 2019 was the beginning of his struggles.

While Maitland-Niles was regularly featured during the first 12 months of the Spaniard’s tenure, things changed completely heading into the second half of 2020-21.

“After my last cap for England (against Iceland in November 2020), I came back to Arsenal and didn’t make the starting XI, then it just went downhill,” the 26-year-old told The Athletic.

“It’s hard to get picked for England when you don’t have consistent football, unless you’re one of the regulars like Harry Maguire.

“It’s frustrating. Everyone wants to play football and everyone wants to play for their country. It was the lack of football that was stopping me.

“I went on a few loans after that to try to pick up momentum but it didn’t go to plan. It was always my interest to be playing football and not sit on the bench waiting for my turn.

“That’s what builds character. It’s difficult. No one wants to go through that but unfortunately, I did and a lot of players went through it with me. It just helped me put perspective into my life.

“I would have liked to stay at Arsenal and preferred to be there and playing games. But it helped me grow as an individual, so I wouldn’t take back anything.”

Maitland-Niles spent the second half of 2020-21 on loan at West Bromwich Albion before returning to Arsenal.

However, he played just 11 games in the first half of 2021-22 before leaving for AS Roma on loan for the second half of the campaign.

Arteta revealed that it was difficult to convince the Hale End graduate not to leave for the Serie A club, and it was clear that the Gunners’ boss had made up his mind concerning the midfielder’s future.

Maitland-Niles spent the entirety of 2022-23 on loan at Southampton before becoming a free agent at the end of the campaign.

He played 132 games for Arsenal and would have preferred if he was still at the club given their current form under Arteta.

Nevertheless, he is starting to make a name for himself with Lyon in the French top-flight following a tough start.

He could end this term with a trophy, with Lyon set to face Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup later this month.

This article was written by .

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