On Tuesday, the BBC reported that Ipswich Town had struck a deal with Arsenal to take 17-year-old midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles on a season-long loan, with no recall option.
Arsene Wenger’s decision to allow the highly-rated prospect to leave on a short-term basis is undoubtedly the right call for the player. However, it could also act as a big boost to under-21 teammate Aaron Eyoma ahead of next season.
The 17-year-old Nigerian, who was promoted to under-21 duties last season, has largely featured on the bench since his promotion, purely due to Maitland-Niles’ presence in the starting eleven.
Both players are capable of playing a number of positions on the right hand side of the pitch, both in defence and in a more advanced wing position, so it will be no surprise to see the youngster replace Maitland-Niles in a straight swap.
What impact can Eyoma have at under-21 level next season?
Last season, Arsenal would have been disappointed with their performance in the U21 Premier League as they failed to win promotion to the top tier and finished fourth behind Championship trio Middlesbrough, Reading and Derby County.
Although it would be unfair to point the blame at Maitland-Niles for the disappointing campaign, it gives Eyoma a chance to prove himself as a key part in hopefully a much better campaign next season.
In order to get into the Gunners first-team in the future, he will have to prove himself as a better prospect than Maitland-Niles, and many others, so he will need to hit the ground running if he is given the chance.
If he can improve on the England youth international’s fairly poor record of two goals and one assist from 20 appearances, that would be a start. However, he will need to show a lot more to get ahead of the likes of Serge Gnabry.