Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent out on loan this summer for a second successive season. The 25-year-old joined Southampton on deadline day after spending the last campaign on loan at AS Roma, while he spent the second half of the 2020/21 season at West Bromwich Albion.
Having now been sent on three separate loan spells by Mikel Arteta, it feels as though Maitland-Niles' long association with Arsenal may soon come to an end. football.london understands that Southampton have an option to make the England international's loan spell permanent next summer.
However, if the Saints don't choose to take up that permanent option, Maitland-Niles will return to the Gunners, where it will surely be his last chance to force himself back into the first-team picture at Arsenal.
Maitland-Niles has had plenty of opportunities at Arsenal, making over 130 first-team appearances, but he has only played 30 times for the club in the Premier League under Arteta. The London-born midfielder will be hoping to impress during his season at Southampton, but Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl has told him that he must improve out-of-possession if he is to succeed.
“He is a very good player on the ball, but he has to learn that our game starts when the ball is not with us," Hasenhuttl told Hampshire Live.
"This is something he still has to learn and therefore we are investing our time to make him better.
"He is not a loud speaker but he is taking responsibility on the pitch and when he has the ball this quality is there. To make a big impact in the future in football he has to add a few parts to his game that he does not have so far and we will help him do this.
"In football it is enough to play three or four good games and you are immediately a superstar. This is not how football should be. You should work for a whole year and show you are performing on a high level and then we can rate this player."