Maitland-Niles may regret refusing to play as a defender at Arsenal

How many youngsters fantasise about putting on n the red and white shirt?

How many would sacrifice it all without a blink of an eye it meant playing at the Emirates?

How many would do anything and everything to catch their dream and make it a reality?

Maitland Niles has had that opportunity 132 times, mostly at full back.

For whatever reason he’s determined he’s above that position and that he should be playing in midfield. That’s despite no senior manager agreeing, barely any performance as evidence he can play in that role, and having excelled in defence for us.

Maitland Niles is set for the third loan spell of his career as he continues to try and prove he’s the central midfielder that only exists in his own mind.

It’s believed Roma will pay a 1 million fee, cover all wages although there is zero obligation or option to buy as Arsenal again prioritise slashing the wage bill in the Winter Window.

3 managers have viewed Niles as only good enough to be a makeshift full back. If defensive tactician Jose Mourinho doesn’t see your strengths as a DM, then the player might have to start listening.

It might be about the 24-year-old swallowing his pride. While there is nothing wrong with backing your own ability you equally have to listen to the professionals., he’s wasted years of his career when he could have established himself in the first team for Arsenal.

Unai Emery played him at right back in the Europa League Final, Arteta trusted him on the left side in the FA Cup Final.

That was enough to get him England recognition again as a defender.

Surely if learning a new role gets you playing for the Gunners, you trust the judgement of those who see you in training?

Not having that outlook gives an indication of the man’s character.

When he asked for a loan last January to boost his hopes of being selected for the Euros his employers arranged a move to Southampton.

The player wanted West Brom purely because they would play him in the position he desired.

He essentially chose relegation on his CV at a time when Arsenal’s left and right back spots were up for grabs.

He very publicly made it clear in the summer he wanted his employers to sanction a loan move to Everton, again not giving the impression he was willing to do whatever it took to play for a club he had been at since the age of 6.

While Arteta had ‘clear the air talks’ which appear to be assurances that he would no longer be used at full back, the Spaniard doesn’t come across as someone who forgets long term.

As a former captain, who preaches the values and ethos of the badge, he wouldn’t appreciate an academy graduate not willing to adapt if it meant playing for The Arsenal.

Thierry Henry, Lauren, Kolo Touré, etc, all were willing to learn new roles to play for Arsenal.

If it’s good enough for them it should be for Niles.

Loans are meant to be part of a player’s development. In Arsenal’s case too many players are loaned out not for their long-term futures, but because of a failure to find a club willing to pay our asking price and/or match the players salary.

Maitland Niles has been deemed not good enough to be in our midfield every week, yet we didn’t accept an offer from Wolves over a year ago due to a fear he might reach his potential.

In the summer Maitland Niles will have 12 months left on his contract forcing Arsenal to sale on the cheap.

How he gets on in Serie A will determine what kind of move he gets, but he would have to do amazing in Italy to make Arteta look beyond his attitude.

An attitude where he didn’t want to listen.

Where he listened to nonsense hype and thought he was better than he was.

Hype such as he’s better then Kante; my favourite comment on JustArsenal.

The embodiment of a young man who got well paid without having done anything.

He’s had 132 appearances for Arsenal, enough chances to prove he could be anything more than a full back.

Enough opportunities to break into one of the worst Arsenal midfields in decades.

If he doesn’t succeed in Rome, then he may regret not embracing the chance he had in North London.


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  1. Couldn’t agree more. He has missed the boat at Arsenal. He is either too stubborn/entitled or has listened to unhelpful advice from close associates.

    Thinking of all the hopefuls desperately trying to get into the first team at any Premier League club and the few that actually do, then it amazes me that AMN didn’t grab the opportunity when it landed in his lap.

    1. He hasn’t been given the opportunity yet, I hope JM is able to get the best out of him and shape him into a quality midfielder. Unai and Arteta both failed in this.

      I wish him all the best and pray he succeeds. A lot of doubters needs to be proven wrong.

      There’s bias in AMN case, the same opportunity given to ESR in midfield wasn’t given to him. I can’t remember a time AMN had a run of 6 games playing midfield for his beloved Arsenal… he needs a coach to impact confidence in him not people discouraging him from achieving his dream.

      1. Well said mate
        Having watched Xhaka have 2-3 months off with Injury then waltzes back in without AMN even having a sniff to try to cement a place in the team must be a big kick in the nuts for him TBH .
        Either way it’s been badly managed ,seeing we could have got a better sum in the summer ,reportedly double of what his worth is now .
        Strange how Arteta wanted him to stay then when we had plenty of cover but now we are short he’s being shipped off unless there is a new signing in the works of course .

      2. No point trying to change your mind as you are convinced that at 24 he has been failed and not in some way failed himself.

      3. @Th14
        RealTalk Gooner…
        Any other player who puts in a MOTM performance is usually kept in the squad for the following matches until he’s either injured or sick.
        Xhaka struggles just about every match, yet is always on the team sheet week in and out.
        AMN’s talents have been overlooked and never nurtured. So he’s written off as “not good enough” or “blew his chances”…
        All the best to the lad. He always put in a shift, whenever or wherever he played.

        1. I belong to the camp that believes Arsenal should do better than Xhaka. With that established let’s look at few details.

          ANM/ Xhaka stats comparisson – all club + country
          Man of Match – 4/13 (only Arsenal 2/4)
          Key Pass per Match 0.6/ 0.9
          Pass Accuracy 78% / 87%
          Aerial duels won per game – 0.6/1.8
          Shots per game 0.4/1.1
          Interceptions per game 1.1/1.3
          Tackles per game 1.6/2
          Dribbled past per game 0.8 /1.1
          Block per game 0.1 / 0.3
          Bad control per game 1.3 / 0.7
          Fouled per game 0.7/ 1.1
          Avg Pass per game – (adjusted for 90min) 45/76
          Crosses per game 0.4/0.3
          Through balls per game 0 / 0.1
          Long balls per game 1.1/5.4

          Stats shows AMN needs to do better. Still he gets fans sympathy while Xhaka isberated.

          Xhaka needs to be upgraged but I dont think AMN has done himself any favour to cement his place in starting 11. I dont think player with 78% pass accurcy over 154 games (and 82%-83% in last 2 years) should be playing in midfield.
          Over 100 games is enough opportunity for a professional to showcase his talents and cement place in starting 11. No had feeling but onus is on ANM to make himself undropble. Afterall all managers wants to play players that alows them to win matches and do well for themselves.

          OT: Since you mentiond Xhaka – There is coincidence that in every match Xhaka and Partey played together this season fans had smile on their faces and pride in this heart. However bad one Xhaka is give me 1 match when both played this season and fans were not proud of team’s performance.

          Xhaka needs to be upgraded but there are other priority area to be addressed first.

          LISG – life is so good.

  2. What is the longest run of games he’s had in the first 11?
    How many of those games came in the varying positions?

    1. He started almost all the matches for WBA after January as a central midfielder.

      He was below average every single game, ordinary at best. For example Conor Gallagher outshine him.

      AMN didnt show any qualities offensively or defensively as a midfielder while he,was there.

  3. PL football affords individuals an incredible lifestyle. Niles is one of the lower salaried Arsenal players yet is paid around 50k p/w which is still an obscene amount to kick a football around two hours 4/5 times a week. His salary equates to a 1000% more than the salary of a brain surgeon. Aubameyang gets 6000% more than a brain surgeon even while he is on holiday or on suspension. How so many are paid so much for doing so little remains a mystery. These footballers live in a world of their own so they can afford to make extortionate demands with no fear of sanction because they have a contract. Even more bizarre is that millions still pay high ticket prices to watch these over paid leeches like Niles sit on the bench week after week.. There’s nowt so strange as folk.

    1. I wanted to reply to this to tell you how wrong you were. But I then awkwardly realised that I couldn’t disagree with anything you said….

  4. To be honest he was never given the RB role, he was used as a make shift defender when required.

    So the premise that he missed his chance is off the mark because his chance was as a fill in. Also if the guy doesn’t like a certain position then that’s his choice, what’s wrong with stating you prefer a different position?

    I don’t ever recall him refusing to walk onto the field when asked to play RB?

    1. A lot of players start their career as a “fill-in” but I’d suggest they grab hold of it a bit more firmly than AMN’s did. Martinelli and ESR are good examples close to home.

      I agree there is nothing wrong with him stating a preferred position. Only time will tell if it pays off for him.

      My main beef this year is he put in a good performance against Newcastle and hasn’t been seen since (part of that may have been Covid related?). Don’t think that sends a great message.

  5. Think he listened to his mother too much,

    He has fairly good ability
    But his attitude stinks,

    Notice when he looses the ball he just jogs back,

    So much of these young players today are millioners
    Before their 21 years of age,

    Looking back at players from the 60s 70s 80s who would go through a brick wall for their team,

    And when they finished their carrers they had to work ordinary jobs to feed their families and some had to sell their medals to make ends meet but they were real men not sulks….

    1. Maybe turning up late for training [on more than one occasion] explains why we never saw much of him?

  6. I must have missed the on screen interview when the camera and mic caught him “refusing to play as a defender”, he picked up an FA Cup medal and England call up playing in defence to my recollection

    Maybe it is one of those urban myths that if people say it often enough it must be true

    I think he played a few consecutive games under late Wenger/early Emery covering Bellerin injuries but obviously never convinced three successive Arsenal Managers that he is worth a regular slot on merit, so naturally would like to try his luck elsewhere and maybe he does fancy himself as a midfielder, nothing wrong with that

    I am a bit surprised about a loan arrangement to Roma at this time to be honest, I would imagine it is more him wanting to go than Arteta wanting him to, we’ll see how it pans out

    I’ve always liked Ainsley as a player, I can’t remember him letting us down and he has been a good guy to have in the squad, not least because of that versatility

    1. After West Brom loan, Allardyce said: “Ainsley’s given us everything he has got.

      “He came to join the fight – you have to admire that – he knew my idea was to play him where he wanted to play and where he’s always wanted to play – in midfield

      “And my words to Ainsley were this: You’ll play in midfield as long as you continue to play well. It’s up to you whether you will hold on to that position.

      “There’s just one thing missing and it’s something he just needs to work on – it’s the same with Connor Gallagher – they need to score more goals. They need to chip in.

      “They’re up-and-down players, they can get box-to-box, they can get on the edge of the box, in the box, they can get chances – but if they do, they need to improve their finishing.

      “It’s the same for every midfielder, or every attacking midfielder like them, they have to add some goals.

      “Overall, Ainsley has done the job we asked him to. He’s played where we have asked him, he’s played where he wanted to. He’s made a big contribution. But there is just one thing missing: Those goals that we ultimately needed.

      1. To be fair wanting to play midfield on loan at West Brom is not exactly “refusing to play as a defender for Arsenal” though Pat

        1. Vcos ars remains a club 2 defend somewhat 4 superiority over clubs(WBA) bt nt until it’s under estimated by vlahovic

    2. Versatility can sometimes be the downfall of players .What’s the old saying FF ” a jack of all trades, but a master of none” or something like that.

  7. This one seems to be an odd one how this has played out.
    1. Plenty of cover in midfield, yet Arteta doesn’t want to sell, and even offers more playing time to AMN.
    2. Rarely features, even in cup games, seems we lost out on a good transfer sell in the Summer.
    3. Now we are 2 midfielders short for a few weeks, and he seems off to Roma. Good versatility, could fill in for either FB, DM or CM if called upon.

    Unless the club is bringing in another midfielder, this move seems to hurt the club and result in a shallow pool of depth for the midfield position.

    Xhaka, Sambi, possibly Chambers at DM are the options I would think, with the younger players not yet experienced enough to carry us through the next several weeks.

  8. Lets be fair. AMN has never been given a chance to play in midfield. He got MOM against Watford and was benched the next game. He looked better than Lakonga in both games he played. Under Wenger he made AMN play more defensive roles to “add that to his game”. Yet, Willock comes right in the squad and was continually given chances at the Number 10 spot. Willock never played as well as AMN. For whatever reason AMN is not rated by the managers and the club. And his comments about preferring to play in midfield have been taken way out of context. But people rather hate on certain players than give them the benefit of the doubt!

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