Ainsley Maitland Niles has had the unenviable job of filling in for Hector Bellerin since he ruptured his cruciate ligament earlier this year in Arsenal’s 2-0 Premier League win over Chelsea.
Maitland Niles has acquitted himself well even though he would prefer to be in midfield but with Bellerin soon to return, the burning question is will the youngster be given his opportunity as reward for his services ? Some might say Maitland Niles should and deserves the chance after covering up for Bellerin.
But practically the answer to that is no. Emery has a host of midfielders ahead of him including Joe Willock, which seems slightly unfair but Willock has looked fairly steady when called upon and although Maitland Niles has played more games, more often, he sometimes seems to lack the necessary confidence.
The good thing is that the young midfielder has placed himself in the shop window and if Emery decides that Willock and Smith Rowe are more integral to his plans, Maitland Niles will have no shortage of suitors.
This is certainly the likely scenario for Maitland Niles despite a series of good performances in an unfamiliar position so, I ’d like to be wrong. I’m just not sure how he can be accommodated ahead of Cabellos and Willock but then again, I think Arsenal’s entire midfield, which has been the culprit for a number of weak performances and lost points, needs a drastic rethink.
The problem is that Lacazette is the main striker regardless of goals returned. Aubameyang occasionally plays alongside him but is mainly used as a wing forward, so that limits the spaces with Arsenal playing a holding midfield duo.
So that means one central midfielder (whoever) and another winger, which will undoubtedly be Pepe. So where is the room for Cabellos, Ozil, Willock or Maitland Niles ?
It doesn’t exist in reality and therefore, unless the formation is changed and Arsenal play one holding midfielder in front of the defence to create another midfield opening, there is almost no chance of Maitland Niles getting what he craves.
The more I see Arsenal this season, the more I think they are in need of a formational tweak. They try to play a back four or three but don’t really have the players to initiate Emery’s tactics.
In the midfield, Torreira seemed to have announced himself in the premier league stage but I now feel that either Emery doesn’t really believe in him as much as he once did or the Uruguayan has made clear he plans to leave Arsenal in the summer as it had been previously rumoured.
The trouble is that Arsenal have lots of fantastic individual parts which don’t all fit together. A strike force without the ability to feed them, a midfield that has to defend more than attack and a defence that simply doesn’t know its arse from its elbow !!!
For me, it’s the Arsenal midfield that is the major problem, despite the defences well documented problems and that idea was supported by Sol Campbell.
“For me, it’s the controlling of the game. The middle of the park is where they’re lacking. The steeliness and the balance just isn’t there. It’s the middle of the park, you win or lose a lot of games there. You can have a strong back or a strong front, but if you haven’t got a middle that’s really solid, then you have forwards dropping too deep because they’re not getting fed and defenders doing too much.”
“You get less attacks against you [with a stronger midfield], because you control the game more and you have the ball more.You win second balls and you don’t give silly fouls away. Yes, you’ve got to sort out the back. But in the middle of the park, they’ve got to get someone solid. They’ve got to realise the ingredients they need to win in the Premier League. At the moment, the ingredients aren’t right.”
Ainsley Maitland-Niles on his preferred position: “I’m a midfielder by trade – central or on the wing. I’m not a defender. I do get a lot of stick for my defending being poor, it’s something I’m learning & have been learning for a couple of years now.“ [Sky] #afc pic.twitter.com/Th0ygyZnGI
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) September 18, 2019
Whether Maitland Niles will be a vital ingredient in the coming seasons remains to be seen but it is clear that something’s not quite right.