Arsenal were powered by a new source against Huddersfield, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles was part of it. Keep it up, and he’ll be doing Sead Kolasinac a huge favor.
Arsenal‘s win over Huddersfield was just another in a long line of experiments carried out by Unai Emery. Without his full compliment of choices, he reverted to a worthwhile strategy – playing your best available players in their best positions.
That meant playing two wingbacks – Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Kolasinac we know. We know how much better he is as a wingback, how incredibly well he attacks and how he’s a literal game changer on that left hand side, leading the team in chances created on the season.
But Kolasinac alone apparently isn’t enough to sway Unai Emery into using the back three reliably, as we still see plenty of Kolasinac at fullback, and apparently now as a wide midfielder in a 4-4-2 as well. All in spite of the clear fact that when you put him at wingback, he changes the game. But he’s done all he can do to make the case for continual wingback usage himself.
That said, seeing Ainsley Maitland-Niles at wingback against Huddersfield took the argument away from Kolasinac and raised it to a new level.
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Maitland-Niles, while shockingly wasteful at times, handing away possession in more than one precarious situations. Maybe I’m the optimist, but I’ll chalk that up to him being out for so long and just now returning to action.
Aside from giving away possession, he was almost as deadly as Kolasinac, notching a stellar assist and leading the team with three key passes, more than all the other non-wingbacks on the team combined.
I just made this case earlier in the day, but if Maitland-Niles can shake off the rust and the wastefulness, and Kolasinac continues to play at the levels that he is playing at, doesn’t it make sense to start planning a future around the use of two stellar, young wingbacks? I’d say so.
The only way we are going to find more out is by giving them more chances. They created five chances together – five. That’s more chances than we’ve seen out of other positions in a long time – positions where it’s their job to create chances.
So don’t mind me as I lobby for more wingback sets in the future. These two have such dynamism, both now and going into the future.