Arsenal Debate – What next for Ainsley Maitland-Niles?

Where’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles?

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has had a strange season so far. He began with decent performances at rightback while Hector Bellerin was injured. Then Calum Chambers took his place and he faded out of the starting eleven. Then Chambers got an injury and he was back again, only to meet a team that had completely forgotten how to defend, attack, and win by play together. It was a mess.

Then the former coach was sacked. Then Mikel Arteta came back after an extensive period studying under Pep Guardiola and immediately gave Ainsley a new role: an inverted fullback playing most of the match in the midfield when his team had the ball.

It was perfect and Ainsley was transformed into one of Arsenal’s best players overnight. Every single game he had under Arteta was excellent and the fans began to get behind the academy graduate. It was definitely the best stretch of the 22-year-old in the team so far and we were all enthralled.

Then Hector Bellerin came back from his injury, scored a late equalizer against Chelsea, and everything came crashing down for Ainsley. Apparently, he was still second choice after all, and obviously, Arteta wasn’t always going to persist with his inverted fullback role in the squad. But Hector Bellerin has since played all the major games since then. He hasn’t been very spectacular (in fact, some might even consider his overall performance shaky since returning) but Arteta clearly sees him as first choice and wants to help him get back to full fitness and peak performance by giving him a run out of games. Against Olympiacos, there was no obvious reason not to play him. He was fully fit. However, Arteta chose to go with Sokratis.

Something obviously is wrong.

Is it an attitude problem? A training issue? A tactical decision? Have the executives decided to sell him in the summer? Where exactly is Ainsley?

Agboola Israel

12 Comments

  1. Soweto Gooner says:

    His chance will come as Bellerin is injury prone. Ceballos will probably go back to Real Madrid. We dont know if Xhaka’s loses form, would he be able to handle fans turning against him and would he wanna go to Hertha? Torreira has also been flirting with a move away. So Niles has a future with us

  2. FoSulli says:

    I was surprised he wasn’t picked over sokratis for the rb role, maybe because sokratis is Greek and we were playing a team From Greece

  3. SAGooner says:

    Once again I have to trust that MA is talking to the player and is keeping him motivated. He was doing very well in an adopted position, as in the case of Saka, and now that the “incumbent” is back, he finds himself sidelined. The management of situations like that is why the coach probably earns more than I do. He should play against Olympiacos at home, whether in midfield or at RB.

  4. Cornel' says:

    Niles must have to learn the art of opportunity grabbing once shown to him. The burden of being a versatile player lies in creativity. I am sure just like Niles himself, that he doesn’t even know his best position of play. I think this has dimmed his performance the more

  5. GB says:

    I don’t think there is a huge problem. I’m fairly sure he will play right back Thursday and Sokratis will be one of the centre backs possibly alongside Mari with Luis and Mustafi on the bench. By the way, what’s an inverted fullback (serious question)?

    1. BRIMZIM says:

      it is like a temporary full-back in a game.

  6. BRIMZIM says:

    niles is a natural midfielder ,he should stay

  7. Grandad says:

    AMN has something none of our midfielders have, namely real pace to match his energy.The selection of Socratis at right back in Greece was a big surprise to me,but Arteta strikes me as a very able guy who must have a good reason for “resting” him recently.I am convinced AMN can make a real impression in midfield and I hope he is given the opportunity to do so in the not too distant future.In some ways he reminds me of Oxlade Chamberlain,but is less injury prone.If he was allowed to leave Arsenal I’m pretty sure a number of top Clubs would be interested.

    1. RSH says:

      My Liverpool friend is also fond of AMN. And I have no doubt Klopp would make him into a similar player as Ox if he got a hold of him. I really hope AMN can find his place in the team. I’d start him over Guendouzi lately…

  8. Reggie says:

    He is young and can still improve but his concentration levels and sloppyness let him down. He has ability but his decision making isn’t what it should. Maybe Arteta has took him out of the firing line to give him instructions, maybe he thinks his place is elsewhere. It is a strange one because Bellerin so far has been awful.

  9. jon fox says:

    He has been used as a makeshift player quite a lot in his short career but has shown most of us a definite promise if and when properly used. That is surely in midfield , whether wide or central. He has pace aNd will get his real chance to show his talent quite soon, I beliEve. I hold out high hopes for him and think he has been unlucky thus far in several ways. Better times for AM-N lie ahead though.

  10. RSH says:

    As others have said, Arteta has a plan with him and he doesn’t want him playing as a RB. Or else we wouldn’t have gotten Cedric. I think we will see him in midfield, which is his natural position and his first few first team performances was in that role until Bellerin got injured.

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