Ainsley Maitland-Niles was a regular name on the team sheet during the absence of Hector Bellerin, which says more about Arsenal’s lack of depth than it does about the ability of the natural midfielder. Going forward, he was impressive on occasion but defensively, AMN was often caught short and found wanting, yet in fairness, that’s only to be expected when someone is out of position.
The player could have made a claim for a midfield place had he kept plugging away and making himself the go-to guy in a crisis, but it’s not worked out that way and some people inside the club think he’ll now be sold if the right offer comes in this summer.
So what went wrong ? Maitland Niles went wrong or at least his attitude did, something Mikel Arteta isn’t keen on. You may recall that the Spaniard arrived after Unai Emery’s dismissal with a list of ‘non-negotiable’ rules. In his first press conference at the Emirates, he said:
“There are some non-negotiables. The demands we put on the team, the commitment, the energy we put in, that dominance”
“This club deserves nothing else but excellence. It deserves the best every single day. Everyone who jumps through that door needs to realise that is what we’re going to be requiring.”
As if to test Arteta’s resolve for professional discipline, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has arrived late for training and has also been constantly complaining about being played in an unfamiliar role, something that has seen him drop out of Arteta’s plans quicker than an Elephant bailing out of a plane.
The problem here was that when AMN was given his chance to play in midfield, the results were at best average and at worst, poor. He was unable to show that he was able to exert control or look sufficiently inventive when going forward.
Arsenal’s academy has produced several midfield options with Emile Smith Rowe, Joe Willock, and Miguel Azeez all knocking hard on the door. Azeez, in particular, is starting to gain attention as a swaggering midfielder or a creative and authentic number 10 and many think the jump from the academy to the first team isn’t far away.
As a result of his indiscretions, Maitland-Niles has slipped way behind all the aforementioned and unless there is a frantic upturn in form, commitment, and application, the player will be sold off if there is interest or frozen out until the end of his contract in 2023.
“Ainsley needs to put his head down and work hard. Show me every day in training that he wants it more than anyone else, he wants to play for this club and fight for his place.”