Arsenal’s dilemma – What to do with Ainsley Maitland-Niles?

Where does Ainsley Maitland-Niles go from here

Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be back at the Emirates Stadium this summer with mixed feelings. At one hand he will be disappointed of failing to avoid relegation with West Bromwich Albion.

But on the other hand, he will be pleased with his performances at central midfield at the Hawthorns. The Englishman was a regular fixture in the side of Sam Allardyce who improved in the second half of the season.

The Baggies looked a better side and that was partly due to the signings of Mbaye Diagne, Okay Yokuslu and Maitland-Niles himself.

The Arsenal loanee was employed as a number eight and has ended up making 13 appearances for them. That can be increased to 15 if he plays in West Brom’s last two fixtures before they switch the Premier League for the Championship.

The 23-year-old has already told that his preferred position is in midfield. But can he really say that with any certainty?

At the start of 2019, Maitland-Niles gave an interview stating that he wants to become Arsenal’s “first-choice winger.” “I’d like to be a winger,” Maitland-Niles told Sky Sports. “I feel comfortable there and I’ve been playing there this season.”

“I like to think of myself as a winger at 25 years old, starting every week for Arsenal, scoring and assisting goals.”

Those were the exact words of the Hale End graduate some two years ago.

So, a few years ago, he wanted to be a winger. At the current moment he wants to be a midfielder. What can Arsenal fans expect from Maitland Niles in a few years’ time?

A starting place between the posts!?

At the outset, The Englishman should be certain of his preferred position. But if he is not, it is better to widen his horizons by playing in various positions.

There are many merits to it. First, he gets to play for a big club like Arsenal week in and week out. Second, he can expand his knowledge of the game by being more flexible.

Some players take the maximum benefit of their versatility. On the flipside, Maitland-Niles seems to be doing the opposite.

Bukayo Saka is the perfect example of a player who gives his most wherever the manager plays him. He is 19, and the England international has already made 86 appearances for the club.

While the majority of those appearances have come on the right-wing, he has occasionally played as a left-back, left-winger and in every midfield position.

If Maitland-Niles wants to play as a defensive midfielder at Arsenal, he simply can’t, because Arsenal already boast one of the best number six in the game in Thomas Partey.

If he wants to play as a number 8, it is unlikely because his attacking output, when played as a midfielder, has been almost negligible.

In his 13 appearances, he has zero goals and assists for West Brom. He also has just 10 shots on target, out of which seven were from outside the box. Those shots were just hopeful punts at goals rather than having a real intent of scoring.

His current coach Sam Allardyce has already pointed out that Maitland-Niles’ weakness as a midfielder is his lack of goal involvements.

Arsenal would rather see a better player for that position in Joe Willock, who has shone at St. James Park.

And if Maitland-Niles wants to play as an attacking midfielder, he might have to move away from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal are looking to buy a more talented number 10, to further boost their options at that part of the pitch.

There are many in the industry who still believe Maitland-Niles can be an exceptional full-back, if he has the desire.

But judging by his comments, he will likely depart North London if the club don’t guarantee him minutes as a midfielder.

This is a player, who might look back in 10-15 years’ time, regretting his stubborn nature.

Yash Bisht  

Tags left-back maitland-niles midfielder West Brom

35 Comments

  1. gotanidea says:

    This is the answer:

    justarsenal.com/what-next-for-maitland-niles-return-to-arsenal-as-right-back/282204

    1. Admin Pat says:

      But what if he doesn’t want to play as right-back?
      Sounds like it to me…

      1. gotanidea says:

        If we still have some free slots in midfield next season, we can try him there. Otherwise sell him if he doesn’t want to play as RB

  2. Shakir says:

    He has the technical ability but lacks good decision making.He can easily be a wijnaldum type of player with his pace and energy but as its pointed out that unless he improves his involvement in goals, atleast in the buildup i dont think MA will start him there

  3. JOEL says:

    Following on from his spell on loan….Arsenal should look to finally cash in on AMN.
    As a Premier League player he is probably best suited to the role of right sided defender/ wing- back but this is not a position that I believe AMN wants to fulfill…Not for Arsenal or anyone else gor that matter.
    In addition his relationship with Arteta has undoubtedly broken down and whilst it looks like the Arsenal Board are certain to back their talentless “Manager” …there can be no other option other to sell him to the highest bidder.

  4. Logic says:

    I still do not understand Arteta’s logic in playing players who won’t be here next season. Why play Eleney unless he is keeping him, why play Ordegard he won’t sign for us. I never seen a manger who has handled the young players as badly as Arteta has done. Saliba and Gabi should have been played together to bed them in the EPL and develop a good understanding, this partnership if kept would have been fruitful to us for years to come but not in Mr Arteta’s book. If he does not like someone then even that dude is talented and can be big player for us it’s off you guy for him. It’s been a season and half since the Arteta can not figure out his playing eleven and keeps shifting all youngsters out of club. What next are we going to blame Ozil stil for disrupting our locker room from Turkey or Guendozi for causing rebellion sitting in Germany? Arteta has completed destroyed us, I mean look at the kind of football we are playing if our own fans think it’s booting to watch and fall a sleep in middle forget about neutrals having any interest in our matches. His fan following can’t even say now that they will take boring football any day if it yeilds trophies while there you go no trophies, worst finish in league for decades and on top of that this lathergic boring football. If this keeps going half our fan base will fall into depression.

  5. mogunna says:

    He is défensive player in middle with hability to go B2B and cross.

    He has not scored but lounged attacks, running forward. No assist but a pass or 2 before; involved in goal build UPS ..

    I think hé can actually a great option to play along Partey in a more défensive midfield system as we play with Elneny along Partey. He is way more dominant than Elneny.

    Defenetly can ne a Real threat in that role with his B2B & crossing faculties.

    Willock is out 8. Rowe pour 10, Partey our 6 because we only played AMN as a rb or on wing on a 5 m’en défense.

    It is correct to mention his défensive faculties and his midfield love.

    Why not simply play him as a 6?

    AMN – Rowe Willock.

    Sûre this was midfield at academy

  6. ThirdManJW says:

    He seems like an average midfielder, better wingback, but wants to play in midfield. So sell! No point keeping unhappy players.

    1. Keith barratt says:

      hi i am a baggie fan AMN will never be a midfielder in a million years . probably best suited to wing back not been impressed with him to be honest sane as Gallagher he will never play for Chelsea no composure and runs like a headless chicken and falls over all the time hes worse than grealish for falling down

      1. A J says:

        Thanks Keith !

        Been saying this for years at our place (see my comment below).

        I’ve also followed his progress at West Brom’, and looked at a few of your guys comments.

        They like myself are not impressed !

        Take care.

    2. Grandad says:

      Agree TM.

  7. A J says:

    No dilemma whatsoever.

    On the list to move on, and at £20M – £30M very sound business.

    You cannot be on the first steps of a “rebuild” and reintroduce AMN to our squad – a TOTALLY retrogressive step.

    I bothered (painful as it was ) to watch a recording of the WBA / West Ham game after our game last night – why ?

    Because I prefer to back up my opinions with facts, and have watched each of his televised WBA games.

    Yes, actually follow the players progress out on loan (which has been underwhelming as I expected) which aids subsequent comment.

    Not consistently base opinion on a couple of performances in a F.A. cup run – and suddenly we have Roberto Carlos on our hands.

    Rather like the golfer living off a hole in one for the rest of his career.

    As for last night – AMN was once again largely anonymous, culminating in him being taken off.

    Also I note since the first few games of his loan spell, Allardyce does not employ AMN in central midfield.

    Gallagher & Yokuslu are played there, with AMN being “shoehorned” in the L/H side of a midfield four (and no, West Ham didn’t have a particular threat down their right for West Brom’ to nullify).

    Yokuslu who plays as a central midfielder for Celta de Vigo is also on loan to WBA.

    The point I make from 2 loanee’s who gets the nod for the central berth from Allardyce ……. Yokuslu – who actually put’s in a shift by the way.

    But bring AMN back to Arsenal ??????

    When will people actually use their eyes instead of sentiment, and admit this player is no where near the standard we need to once again aspire to.

    This question repeatedly crops up on J A – and I’ve no idea why given we are dealing with an average player at best.

  8. Shortboygooner says:

    Like AMN but he is nkt arsenal quality. He should be sold and we retain willock at all costs.

  9. Si says:

    I am a Baggie and watched the (now) 14 games he has played in.
    You should move him on while you can get £20m+ for him as its generous. No final ball, no finishing. Good box to box and pace but not a midfielder nor a winger. Best suited as a FB and the sooner he realises that the better for his career.
    Willock looks a much better midfield prospect.

  10. CorporateMan says:

    We should have cashed in on him last summer when his stock peaked and Wolves were desperate to get him.
    That’s one thing Arsenal are not good at – knowing when to sell young players who don’t have a future with the team.
    We made this mistake with Joe Campbell
    For me, I don’t see much of a great future for Maitland-Niles at Arsenal. He doesn’t cut the grade for me. So, sell him for a good offer.
    Same thing for Willock. This is the right time to cash in on him. For me, he is not the quality to take us to the top. There’s a world of difference playing for Newcastle and playing for Arsenal.
    With due respect!
    I look to an Arsenal squad of 22 players that would give the coach a challenge deciding which 11 is first. I look to an Arsenal squad where the substitute is as good as the starter. That’s the mark of great teams

    1. Stewart Macintosh says:

      Agreed with the wish. Challenge will be determining when that is possible and what pieces to keep as we work towards the goal.

      For me if AMN is fully committed to being a swiss army knife (multitool) I would keep him as he gives a lot of cover in a lot of areas. That would free up money to go after one of your “22”.

      If he doesn’t want to play that role I would sell.

      As for Willock, you may be right but we have space without the Real duo in midfield. I would keep him and give him a chance.

    2. ozziegunner says:

      CorporateMan, I disagree with your comment regarding Joe Willock, “there’s a world of difference playing for Newcastle and playing for Arsenal.”
      Both clubs play in the EPL and are playing against the same opposition.
      Joe Willock has excelled at Newcastle United scoring 6 goals in 6 games, in a team performing poorer than Arsenal and surrounded by arguably poorer players. Using your argument no club would ever scout players and transfer them from supposedly inferior leagues or clubs.
      If Joe Willock was not an Arsenal loanee, while performing as he is for Newcastle, people on here would be clammering for his signature. By way of comparison Willock has scored more goals in the EPL than all Arsenal midfielders combined. Emi Buendia, a winger, has 15 goals for Norwich City in the Championship, yet scored only one in the previous season in the EPL. Despite this people on this site denigrate Nicholas Pepe and want Arsenal to buy Buendia as an ACM.
      Sometimes people can’t see what is in front of their eyes. The big question is why can Steve Bruce get Joe Willock to produce and Mikel Arteta can’t?

      1. siamois says:

        Difficult to argue with that!

      2. siamois says:

        And to answer your question Ozzie i read Steve Bruce’s interview yesterday in it he spoke about how he gave Willock freedom to roam!

        1. ozziegunner says:

          Thanks, siamois; I’m sorry I asked a question, which like you I knew the answer to!

  11. Raghav says:

    I think arsenal should start playing with 3 at the back and employ AMN as a back up for Tierney.

  12. Trudeau says:

    I don’t see a dilemma. If he wants to play MF then sell, he’s not good enough. Although I think £20m for an average MF who doesnt want to play his best position is pushing it.

    If he is ready to commit himself to RB then give him the chance. He’s proven to be pretty handy there when he applies himself. AMN and Chambers are a respectable tandem if Arsenal have other priority areas to spend limited transfer budget on.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      👍 Trudeau, AMN should follow the advice of Sam Alladyce to “play where the manager wants him to play”.
      Every manager previous to Alladyce, including for his England call up, have selected him at RB. Surely that’s telling AMN something.

  13. Goonster says:

    Sell sell.
    Thank you very much.

  14. Danny says:

    No brainer sell not good enough defender to be considered for right back and will not be a permanent fixture in our midfield just a squad player so start the bids!!

  15. MartinelliTheBench says:

    Just sell, best for both parties.

  16. Stewart Macintosh says:

    I really don’t know what to make of AMN. On the one hand I really do admire his self-belief and determination. On the other, I really do wonder about the advice and guidance he is getting from his group.

    If he chooses to be flexible he is a very valuable player on a lot of teams as he can fill multiple holes quite well – he may not be the first choice but over the run of a season, he would get a lot of games as the second choice and as injuries mount up.

    He has played well at West Brom but hasn’t set the world on fire, especially offensively. That has to tell him and his people something about the feasibility of his wishes.

    In addition, it is only as a fullback that he has really made a suggestion that he could (not saying is) be a starter.

    If he were to come back and tell Arteta that he was fully committed to whatever role is needed I would keep him in a heart beat.

    If he is insistent on chasing his dream then the team should look to move him for the best price that they can get.

  17. Indian Gunner London says:

    I would like him back at the Emirates because he has a good engine and does not frequently get injured as a wingback, rightback or even a good cover at left back for Kieran Tierney and not as a midfielder unless we are hit by a lot of injuries and we are forced to play him there.

  18. Ackshay says:

    AMN is good as a squad player that can cover multiple position like milner does. But if he is obsessed to play only in midfield the get rid of him for a good sum. still young and homegrown should fetch a nice price.

  19. jon fox says:

    Quote: “First he gets to play for a big club like Arsenal week in, week out” Sorry to interrupt your fantasy but I wish to point out that under our last three managers he has never played regularly at all, NOT in any position. And certainly not in midfield nor as a winger.

    I also notice he was on the subs bench for “the mighty WBA” last weekend game. I live in reality land – or if you prefer, P,lanet Earth – and I see no way this player will ever be a regular for our club again. Just as he never was in the past either. And there is one good reason for that; he is not good enough. Reality!

    He will leave permanently this summer and I would happily put money on that happening.

  20. Vinnie2000 says:

    Bring AMN ASAP!!
    Never sell him!!
    We would regret if we sell Maitland-Niles!!
    Keep him as a backup midfielder as El neny has been dis season!!

    Our midfield next season should be Partey, Bissouma and Joe Willock!! Elneny, AMN n Smith Rowe as substitutes!!

    1. Mike says:

      Smith Rowe is better than Willock or AMN.

  21. RFrancis says:

    I would offer him to Norwich as a trade piece for Buendia.

  22. leo says:

    sell xhaka , elneny sign bissouma/locatelli /sander berge/ & convert AMN into a mf

  23. Mike says:

    It’s harsh on AMN to point out that he has expressed interest in playing as a winger and a midfielder, considering how blurred those lines can be in modern football. The bigger issue is whether he can do the job well enough. Hard to see him preferred over Pepe / Saka / Auba from the wing, etc.

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