Mikel Arteta has confirmed that Arsenal will be scouring the January transfer market for another midfielder after agreeing to let Ainsley Maitland-Niles see out the remainder of the season on loan at Roma.
Versatile England international Maitland-Niles is heading out of Emirates Stadium and linking up with Jose Mourinho and Tammy Abraham in the Italian capital after finding regular playing time hard to come by in north London.
Arteta can appreciate why the 24-year-old wants to move on but, with Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey away on Africa Cup of Nations duty, the Arsenal manager admits that he is being left light in an important area of the field.
Will Arsenal sign a new midfielder in January?
Asked about whether Arsenal will look to address the midfield in the winter window after agreeing to part with Maitland-Niles, Arteta said: “We are very, very short at the moment. But to be fair on a player, this cannot be the only argument to try to keep a player — and a player that has been developed and raised through our academy.
“A player that has been patient in many moments and tried to fulfil his dream. He was very straight with me and I understood the situation and we think it’s a good option.
“Obviously we are going to move and we are going to look for options because we are very short there.”
“Ainsley came to me and explained the reasons why he thought the best thing for him in his career right now was to move away,” the Spaniard added about letting the homegrown talent head to Serie A.
“He felt the opportunity to go to Rome and work with Jose was a good one. Being fair with the amount of minutes that he’s played, he was entitled to that opportunity. We wish him the best.”
While reinforcing their engine room has become a top priority for the Gunners, there is plenty of speculation to be found regarding supposed targets in other areas.
Arsenal are being heavily linked with a number of highly-rated strikers, including Fiorentina frontman Dusan Vlahovic and Real Sociedad star Alexander Isak.
Arteta is reluctant to be drawn on his plans there, saying: “You know that I can never speak about players that aren’t ours.”
He does, however, concede that the attacking department needs to be looked at as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been frozen out following a breach of club discipline while Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah will have their contracts expire in the summer.
“We have a special situation because there are three players with different issues at the moment,” Arteta said about the club’s striker issues. “We have to live with that and so far the players that are here are very committed.”
Arsenal is due to be back in action on Sunday when the team faces Championship side Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup.