It’s not often you find supporters siding with a player who has just criticised the club publicly on social media.
But when Ainsley Maitland-Niles took to Instagram to make it clear, yes, he would like to leave Arsenal before the September transfer deadline, the response was one of sympathy rather than fury.
He is, as they say, ‘one of their own’ after all. The admiration between fans and player is mutual.
And there’s an understanding among the north London faithful that Maitland-Niles’ wanderlust is a result of his declining game time rather than a temper tantrum.
At the age of 24 and with England ambitions, he simply can’t afford to spend another season wasting away on the sidelines.
So far, Maitland-Niles has played just 19 minutes of Premier League football since returning to the Emirates from a loan spell at West Bromwich Albion.
And while Mikel Arteta insists the Hale End graduate remains a key part of his plans, it’s hard to imagine Maitland-Niles commanding anything other than a back-up role – the odd cameo here, the odd EFL Cup start there.
Should Arsenal relent and let Ainsley Maitland-Niles leave for Everton?
According to ESPN, Everton are already planning a January bid – a permanent one at that – for a man who was denied a loan move to Goodison Park in the last January transfer window.
Rafa Benitez would relish the prospect of a player one part tenacity, two parts technique. Maitland-Niles’ versatility would come in handy given Everton look dangerously short in central midfield and in both full-back areas.
And you won’t find many Arsenal supporters willing to stand in his way if Everton do indeed come calling. Arteta, however, may see things differently.
He certainly does at the moment, anyway.
Here’s what some Arsenal fans had to say about the situation on Twitter: