With an ability to play in the heart of midfield and in both full-back positions, Southampton’s loan acquisition of Ainsley Maitland-Niles certainly adds to the options at Ralph Hasenhüttl’s disposal.
Raised in North London, the 25-year-old started his footballing journey at the tender age of six, working his way up the age groups of Arsenal’s Hale End Academy before signing his first professional deal in October 2014.
His breakthrough into the first team followed just 46 days later; 17-year-old Maitland-Niles becoming Arsenal’s second youngest player to represent the club in the Champions League with 45 minutes against Galatasaray.
A Premier League debut followed just four days later, replacing Saints Academy graduate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during the 4-1 win over Newcastle United.
Encouraging performances during the 2014/15 season then saw Maitland-Niles earn an opportunity to gain further experience out on loan, signing for then Championship side Ipswich Town.
The youngster hit the ground running with the Tractor Boys, being described by manager Mick McCarthy as “outstanding” and being awarded the club’s Player of the Month for September.
Maitland-Niles scored his first senior goal in November 2015, a low left-footed finish from 25 yards during the 2-0 win over Bolton.
Following a spell which saw him make 32 appearances and score twice in all competitions, he returned to the Gunners for what became his breakthrough period at the club.
During Arsène Wenger’s last season at the club Maitland-Niles established himself as a regular, making 28 appearances and signing a new long-term contract in June 2018.
A first Arsenal goal followed under Unai Emery, notching the opener against Liverpool at Anfield in December of the same year.
With Mikel Arteta now the manager, Maitland-Niles received the Man of the Match award and scored the second penalty during the Community Shield shoot-out win over Liverpool.
This came with rewards at international level too. Having represented the Three Lions at every age group between Under-17s and Under-21s, Gareth Southgate awarded him his England senior debut in August 2020 during the Nations League games against Denmark.
In January 2022, after struggling to kick on in the Arsenal team, Maitland-Niles went on loan to Serie A side Roma, where he was part of the squad who won the Europa Conference League.
An energetic, pacey player, the England international will be hoping to regain his impressive form from previous loan moves during this spell on the south coast.