ARSENAL are facing a New Year’s midfield dilemma with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mohammed Elneny both considering their futures.
Maitland-Niles was all set to sign for Everton on loan on transfer deadline day but the move was blocked at the last minute by boss Mikel Arteta.
And when the England international took to social media to express his frustration, he was initially banned from training by the club.
Yet while the dispute was quickly settled following clear-the-air talks with Arteta, the regular first team football which Maitland-Niles craves has still not been forthcoming.
The versatile 24-year-old has only started one Premier League game so far this season, filling in for the suspended Granit Xhaka during the 1-0 win against Norwich last month.
And though he has had brief cameo appearances off the bench in their subsequent games against Burnley, Spurs and Brighton, it has not been the kind of minutes he had been hoping for.
Elneny, 29, appears to be even further down the pecking order following the summer signing of £17million Albert Sambi Lokonga.
The Egyptian is out of contract at the end of the season and though Arteta is keen for him to sign a new deal, no agreement has so far been reached.
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Arsenal are reluctant to risk losing him for nothing and could look to sell him for a nominal fee in January.
But the situation has become complicated by Xhaka’s knee ligament injury which will sideline him until February at the earliest.
And with both Elneny and the injury-prone Thomas Partey both due to spend January at the African Cup of Nations, that leaves Arteta with precious little midfield cover.
The most likely scenario is that Maitland-Niles, who is under contract to 2023, will be ordered to stay to fill in alongside Lokonga in the absence of Xhaka and Partey.
But the club could be willing to listen to offers for Elneny as long as Xhaka does not suffer any setbacks on the road to recovery from the injury sustained during the recent North London derby.
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