Should Maitland-Niles reconsider his preferred position?

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.

Dan Smith


  1. Easy positions that are available are in the midfield. If selections were based on merit, the Maitland-Niles would fit in properly. The defensive midfield is there for grabs, and Maitland-Niles have acknowledged it. He can beat Xhaka, Torreira, and Elneny in that position

    1. Torreira,Elneny are going to be sold and be replaced by better players,defenders will be sold too like Hector,why spend money to replace him when we already have AMN and other positions are a priority,this is a team sport and if he loves the club like he said he does,he should be less selfish and give his best for his team no matter where he plays unless he thinks Wolves are a better fit for him!

      1. Imagine you were employed at an organisation that you love based on your skill set as say an engineer which you’re great at and love, suppose your employer asks you to go join the cleaning department, and yes you have no problem with cleaning too but not as much as you love engineering, would you be a team player and accept the job even though cleaning is not on your resume?

          1. “Where was i when we went 22 games unbeaten or when we made our first European final since 2006 “
            I was probably at work or at home I would imagine Kstix
            Like I told you last night ask pat or Martin to go through old posts I have never changed my mind on Emery and I dont need you to start questioning my posts telling g me what I have done or have not .
            It’s great that you though Emery was a great coach ,I didn’t and that’s my personal view ,if you don’t like it don’t reply tommy posts because I won’t change my mind .
            Oh and if you have a problem talk for yourself dont try and get others involved with something g you do not agree on .

            1. Haha
              I’ll think you will find that it was Emery who wanted him mate …I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to have known that .
              I’m not sure if I’ve upset you as you seem to have taken a personal grudge against me and your hoping to catch me out for some Bizarre reason ,what I will say is that I’m not a child and don’t play silly games that you seem to be into so I will leave it there .

    2. Ainsley Maitland Niles is probably the best (non creative) midfield player at the club right now, box to box or defensive, and arguably the best right back, which I suspect is the real reason Artetta decided not to sell him. It is in midfield that the player wants to develop his game and make his name which is a problem for Arsenal football club and Ainsley Maitland Niles at present. The matter can be resolved to the mutual benefit of both parties by contract or they will agree to part ways.
      I’m more worried that we are unable to get rid of the below standard performers still at the club who nobody wants to buy preventing the club from improving the team, I suspect that is the reason why Aubamayang has not signed the new contract, he’s not going to stick around to play with dross

  2. I can only agree with you,MNA has recently stated that Arsenal was his club,I hope he took time to analyze his situation, lately he’s been getting playing time as a full back where he had his best performances (MOTM) and called up to the senior team to play in that position,in MA he has a great coach, he also recently win 2 medals and the club 2 trophies, this should confirm to him that he is at the right club which is at the start of something good and playing in his best position, why risk it all?we all remember Walcott who was convinced that his best position was CF,we know what happened is now back playing on the wing when selected that is!he should look at Saka,Martinelli….who trust their manager.

  3. He has played his best football as a full back so he must continue in that position to thrive for Arsenal. Arteta has correctly figured out his best position and AMN must understand that.

    1. GFL and Siamois – AMN played left WING BACK (a midfield position) not as a full back. That’s why he was able to get forward so much.
      Just because Dan Smith always refers to him as a full back, as in this article, or, to use Smith’s own words “… a MAKESHIFT FULLBACK” doesn’t make it correct.
      Smith’s spiteful vendetta against AMN has gone on for a few months now.
      Please don’t be fooled.

      1. ADMIN PAT COMMENT – Jack, Dan does not have a “spiteful vendetta” against AMN, he is simply giving his opinion about his football. OPINION! But I think I you are making this into a vendetta against Dan! Please give it a rest. No personal abuse allowed….

        1. Admit Pat, akan can call me a “twat” (look it up in a dictionary, it is a crude, if not obscene term), but that is not “personal abuse”? Of course I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, that it slipped through, given my first response was removed.

      2. @GunnerJack,AMN is still young, what I’d like to see happen is for him to play as a wing/full back,where he has performed very well until we get someone else in especially if Bellerin is sold,allowing us to spend that money in areas where reinforcements are a priority in like midfield convey that’s done I’m not against him being given his chance in midfield, that’s all!

  4. Sorry folks if this seems like yet another repeat of many earlier post between Dan Smith and me. I repeat here what was my latest comment to you on this subject. It was on Aug 31st, 2.49pm:

    (ADMIN COMMENT – Jack, As much as you want to keep repeating this argument with Dan, can we just give it a rest now. It is just both of you repeating the same thing over and over. Can you just agree to disagree???? Please!)

    1. Admin it’s not that i want to keep repeating the argument/AMN defence. It’s that Smith won’t stop trotting out his insinuations that AMN is not as good as Elneny etc.
      Smith simply cannot leave it alone. This is the 3rd article he’s written saying the exact same thing, quite apart from sneeringly referring to AMN as a ‘makeshift fullback’ about a dozen times.
      Smith stops his insinuations – I have no need to respond. How easy is that?
      BTW, even if AMN ends up as a full back for Arsenal it will be because he’s willing to do it for the good of the team, not because he’s in any way inferior as Smith tries repeatedly to infer.

      1. Your terse use of “Smith” rather than the less terse Dan Smith” or even a preferably neutral “Dan”, speaks volumes about your personal bitterness. MANY OF US CAN READ CHARACTER VERY WELL BY HOW POSTS ARE PHRASED.

      2. It’s not an insinuation, it’s an OPINION!
        You wrote your article in defence of AMN.
        AGREE TO DIFFER, and let’s all move on….

  5. I was already for AMN getting a chance alongside xhaka, then ceballos came back. He should be thankful that he is adept at playing a number of roles and that his manager recognises that.

    I would like to see us play a 433 with AMN on the right of the midfield trio, not every match though. I love the way Arteta tries to play the opposition with tactics. Under the last 2 managers we had no plan b.

  6. He is versatile. So, he should be tested for another position in arsenal too. After all, he is a midfielder.

    1. He has played in midfield in a cup tie against southampton under Arsene Wenger which we won 5-0; he controlled the game and along with Jeff Raine Adelaide was the stand out performer on display. That was the season when Ozil declared that he and Jeff Raine Adelaide were “the future of Arsenal football club” He was also played in midfield in a league match against manchester united not too long ago and was once again the the best player on the park. Ainsley Maitland Niles has not been properly utilised by the club due to the preference of management for players with less ability than him, and because he has not made a fuss about it, until now. For the last few seasons he has been employed has Bellerin’s boot boy, even though many have argued that he is a better player. Even playing out of position his passing accuracy percentage is superior to that of Xhaka plus he is extremely quick can cover defense and tackle, unlike Xhaka. Even when Xhaka was stinking the place out and costing the team game after game, which was why the fans booed him, management still preferred him to Ainsley. It’s simple really, if AMN is going to continually be held back by Arsenal from developing into the player that he has the potential to become, he must leave the club he loves in order to realize his potential elsewhere

      1. Akan – Good to see that someone else can see what’s happening here 🙂

        And when Dan Smith tells us . . .

        “The likes of Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and Arteta have been proven correct by his (AMN’s) international recognition”

        . . . Smith conveniently forgets that AW actually said that AMN’s best position was/would be in midfield.

        1. Why didn’t Wenger play them more
          He doesn’t play in our midfield
          That’s why I don’t see him as a midfielder
          It’s my opinion
          I havnt got an agenda against him
          What have I said which is a lie ?
          Don’t know why your being so aggressive about this
          He rarely plays as a CM for Arsenal so I’m not going to say he’s better then those who play there
          So.I asked , admin asked stop being unpleasant
          Coming across as a bully

          1. You say I just get personal.
            Smith: “Your either young or lonely.” Oops! I never said anything personal about you.

            FYI: I’m 74. I play in pool competitions twice a week and take part in a pub quiz on alternate Tuesdays. All with a great bunch of guys and we have an excellent time. Happily married. Kids keeping in touch on FB – photos of grandkids practically every day.
            Very happy.

        2. GunnerJack
          Dan Smith is entitled to his opinion,
          I accept the evidence seen by my own eyes.
          Over the past few seasons Arsenal’s game has been changed to the detriment of the club in order to suit the inclusion of one player which has almost destroyed the team and have fans fighting each other

          Xhaka joined the club in 2016. At that time even with Mertersacker in defense the team were conceding around 30 goals per season, which is high for a team with title ambitions. Every consecutive season since Xhaka’s arrival the team have increased the number of goals conceded to the point where we almost at 50 last season which is the reason why we finished 8th in the league.
          In addition to that we have made fewer chances and has a result consecutively scored fewer goals over the same period.
          The reason for this is in my view the tactical change made to accommodate his specialist position and shall we say lack of certain basic abilities in that where we used to pass the ball quickly in the opposition half of the pitch probing for openings, we overnight changed to rolling the ball around in our half in order for Xhaka to have more possession. Tactically it could work if he had the ability to carry the ball out draw the opposition to him and create space for teammates to run into but he doesn’t have that skill set. opponents very soon worked out his weakness and attacked him pressured him into mistakes which cost the team because he can’t tackle and has to commit fouls. That’s what I’ve seen and many other fans have seen with their own eyes. The number of goals conceded bears out the problem. A Maitland Niles Aouar and Ceballos midfield would eliminate those issues if we can’t get Partey.

          1. Agreed about that midfield. In fact as I’ve said in a previous article I’m not that bothered about getting Partey etc and would much rather spend the cash on Aouar.
            Regarding Xhaka – I have all along regarded him as a total liability. I admit that unlike our managers I cannot see what he brings to the team. Just lately, probably due to MA’s coaching, he has improved. That’s to say IMO he has improved from being totally useless to just about adequate.
            MA seems to make him the first name on the teamsheet.
            I would make him the first name on the ‘For Sale’ sheet.
            Unfortunately nobody would buy him. They’re not that daft!

  7. Let’s get this clear. AMN has personally gone on record very recently and confirmed that he is happy to play for Arsenal in any position.With Gabriel signed there will no longer be a need for Tierney to play on the left side of a back three,and he will move to LB or LWB depending on the system deployed by Arteta.Saka has already shown an altitude for the LWB position so it’s highly unlikely that AMN will be needed on the left which is not his natural side.To me he should be used as a RB, RWB or as a B to B midfielder in a 4-3-3 sysgem.The question of him reconsidering his favoured position does not arise and at the end of the day Arteta will decide the role for AMN.

  8. Arsenal fans have watched Niles for this long and they don’t realize his best position…..

    Not surprising at all.

    Anyway, Niles’ best position is the left-side midfield; the same spot for Ceballos who wasn’t needed in the first place.

    So I can’t tell what kind of marijuana these guys at the club are sniffing. Right back is not and will never be his best position.

    1. Herbs
      You have never watched AMN play, if you had you would know that he is right footed, he has on a couple of occasions been too cocky over confident and been caught in possession, but that has happened to every single football player bar none. I for one can’t wait to see him again playing in midfield so he can show all the doubting morons his true self. Dat boooy can plaay

      1. akan: Some times you wonder if there is more than one Arsenal. I said he was careless giving the ball away but your description is of cocky is more accurate. AMN reminds me of Alex Song except faster.

        1. Yeah,, he can play like like Alex Song, but reminds me more of Michael Thomas, remember how he won the title for us at Anfield then Liverpool bought him and built a title winning team around his control of the midfield,,,
          Maitland Niles could do the same for Arsenal if give him the office to run and stop holding him back

      2. My friend, I thought you knew that playing on the left side of midfield doesn’t necessitate one to be left-footed…..🤔🤔

        Take for example Wijnaldum of Liverpool or Ceballos of Arsenal in central midfield of 3;
        They tend to usually be comfortable operating on the left side. THAT’S WHAT I MEAN.

        1. Herbie herbie,, Arsenal are not setup tactically in midfield for left footed players to play on the right or vice versa, that would unbalance the team. We do setup frequently for wingers and wingbacks to play on the opposite side of their naturaly preferred foot ie Pepe and AMN when he’s used on the left. Mostly management prefer a to use left footed midfielders on the left and right footers on the right to get to the byline and whip crosses in.

          Get educated

  9. AMD best position is defensive midfield where Xhaka plays. He is scrappy, quick and combative which are good traits for a DM. His weakness is that he is sometimes careless nonchalantly passing the ball to the opposition. That’s due to the lack of experience . Imagine him and MG as a pair in the midfield. They will be awesome.

  10. I see the change of heart in now not selling AMN as a narrow and welcome near miss. I hope the same applies to NOT selling MARTINEZ.

  11. I personally prefer AMN in the attacking midfield. He has the potential to develop into one of the best midfielder in the world.

    Pat Bots

    1. No no no much as I like Maitland Niles he has a different set of skills than is suited for the role of an attacking midfielder. Step up Saka and and even more so Joe Willock

      1. Akan – AMN seems to have dislodged Saka from the team.
        Willock not there yet IMO but maybe with time . . .?
        If we sign Aouar then he’ll probably dislodge all three of them!
        Then it will be another test for MA, along with the ‘keeper problem.

    2. Totally agree Patrick, he has the skill set to be more attacking and not just used as a destroyer – which he can also do of course.
      Would love to see him getting forward and making moves up front with Willian!

  12. He has found his calling as a left back; the way he played and totally dominated at the FA final and community shield says it all.

    1. No,,, “Maitland Niles is the best defensive and box to box midfield player currently at the club”

    2. Ibrahim – he did not play left back in the FA final and Shield.
      FA cup final lineup 3-4-3 (and similar for the Shield)
      Holding, Luiz, Tierney
      Bellerin, Xhaka, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles
      Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang.

  13. Yeah,, he can play like like Alex Song, but reminds me more of Michael Thomas, remember how he won the title for us at Anfield then Liverpool bought him and built a title winning team around his control of the midfield,,,
    Maitland Niles could do the same for Arsenal if give him the office to run and stop holding him back

  14. It’s difficult to understand why he has not been given an opportunity to play as a defensive midfielder. Based on what I have seen, I think he would be good at that position. Perhaps better than some of the players that Arsenal are willing to pay millions to sign.

    1. Jay, I think the reason why he has not been given an opportunity to play as a defensive midfielder is that he’s been too useful to our manager(s) in other positions.
      After all, who else could play all over the pitch and give an excellent (M.O.M.) display? Saka? It appears AMN’s already dislodged him from the starting line up – and I have high hopes for both Saka and AMN no matter who we sign.
      My own preference, if we could only have one, would be for Aouar rather than Partey, although that is not a very popular opinion 🙂

      1. Sorry GunnerJack, I have to disagree. Another small technical midfielder like Aouar into a midfield, which is constantly bullied by even lower rated teams doesn’t fix Arsenal’s midfield deficiencies. If the midfield was beefed up with a physical commanding box to box midfielder like Thomas Partey, then a CAM like Aouar would have the opportunity to thrive. In a perfect world, funds permitting, a specialist physical DM like Diawara of AC Roma, would complete an excellent midfield three.

        1. No need to be sorry Oz – I see exactly the point you’re making. And it’s a good one.
          However my own hope is that we get Aouar of course as I feel he would be better at breaking open those teams which simply mass their defenders and hope for a quick breakaway.
          So two good opinions 🙂

  15. AMN as a professional footballer playing for the Arsenal should be accepting of playing in the position as selected by the head coach, where he can do the most good for the TEAM.
    Putting the needs of the head coach and team ahead of himself has currently put AMN in the starting 11, off the bench and gained him a place in the England squad.

    1. That’s exactly what he has been doing Oz. However it causes others, without the vision to see it, to think that he can’t play in midfield. That’s the problem.

    2. Ozzie gunner,, your a twat..It’s a sport,, the man is not a slave nor is he a soldier who has taken an oath,, it’s a sport and even though he is paid it’s under a contractual agreement between two parties, he doesn’t have to sacrifice his ambitions to satisfy Arsenal football club if doesn’t want to
      I would like him to stay and play for the club in his preferred position because that is where he has been most impressive when given the opportunity. The team actually needs his natural ability more in midfield than anywhere else

      1. akan, if I am a “twat”, you are a f#ckwit. Have you ever played sport either at an amateur, semi pro or professional level, particularly team sport?
        AMN has a choice: play where selected for Arsenal and earn an England cap or take a transfer away to another club, where he can tell the coach, where he wants to play if that is in midfield.

      2. akan, apparently it is OK for you to call me a “twat”, which has a very crude meaning in Australia, but I am not allowed to respond in kind by the moderator.
        From your comment it appears that you have never played team sport at a amateur level, let alone semi pro or professional level. If you had you would know AMN has three choices, play where the coach wants him to play for the good of the team, sit on the bench and wait for a chance to play midfield or request a transfer to another club, where he is guaranteed a midfield position. This latter option may not get him an England cap.
        My advice to you is that sometimes it is better to stay silent and be thought a fool, than comment and confirm the fact.

    1. Unfortunately for your opinion QD (and I agree with you a lot), Mikel Arteta and the England selectors do rate AMN.

      1. Aha! Okay Ozziegunner, I hope he does well in the internationals if only to increase his sell-on value 😃

  16. He should transform himself into Arsenal’s Alphonso Davies and start humiliating the likes of Semedo in the future…

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