Depending on who you believe, Maitland Niles had an interview earlier this year hinting he would leave if long term he didn’t get a consistent run in our midfield.
Since then some have suggested his comments were taken out of context.
It was reported Wolves wouldn’t agree with our valuation and it remains to be seen if we are still open to offers.
Arteta seems to now trust him after he proved in the FA Cup Semi-final, Final and Community Shield that he can be trusted to tactically follow a game plan. Will that change his transfer status? There are worse people to have fighting in your corner then the manager.
Yet this month might have been the turning point and even rescued his career at Arsenal. Not just did he play a huge part in winning his first medal, something any Gooner would have dreamt off as a child, he’s now been called up for International duty.
That’s now his club and national manager who has shown faith in him and showed him he can reach the highest level by playing at fullback. Will that change his mind?
He’s worked with three coaches now who have judged his ability as being better suited to be a left or right back. That’s the position Gareth Southgate has in mind when selecting his squad. It leaves Niles with a dilemma…
He could join the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers where he’s more likely to play in the role he wants and with respect is messing with his chances of more trophies.
Of course, any athlete should back themselves, but at the moment leaving based on where you play would be like ripping everything up and starting again.
At 23 his development has been based on him in a back 4 or 5. Even if that’s not his preference that’s what has taken him so close to a first cap.
There is nothing wrong with believing in yourself, but you also have to listen to your coaches, 3 at club level who felt his talents were best suited elsewhere. The likes of Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and Arteta have been proven correct by his international recognition.
It’s not like Arsenal currently have a high-quality midfield that is difficult to get into. Heck Elneny was picked ahead of him at Wembley. That same afternoon Niles was man of the match, earning promotion to the Three Lions senior squad.
So, he has a decision to make… If he wants to stay where he’s been since the age of 6, he might have to sacrifice where on the pitch he plays.
If he embraces the challenge, the right back spot might be long term up for grabs. If he left just to play in midfield, he might regret leaving a club he loves while he loses the momentum he has now with England.
There are many examples in the history of the Gunners where a player reluctantly learnt a new role and turned good at it, e.g. Henry, Kolo Touré, Lauren, Song.
Niles didn’t get his first cap in Iceland and we wish him all the best against Denmark, but either way spending the last week training with the best English players will make him better for the experience. And left him with lots to think about.
I just hope he doesn’t see bigger picture till it’s too late.