Arsenal fans are still grumbling about Nicolas Pepe’s lack of appearance against Norwich City, but there was another absence far more disturbing.
Arsenal had a lot of rather negative talking points against Norwich City in Freddie Ljungberg‘s first match in charge, which is a shame. Obviously Freddie, and the entirety of this fickle, fickle fanbase would have wanted more. The latter are already pulling support of the former, and one big reason why is the continued absence of Nicolas Pepe.
The record signing was notably left out of the starting XI in Ljungberg’s first match and to compile on that, he was not called on as a substitute either. Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli were both give appearances, however.
For the record, I couldn’t care less about this decision. Pepe has struggled, and Ljungberg hasn’t had any time to sort things out and put his own stamp on the team.
But for all the stink being raised about Pepe’s absence, no one seems to care about the absence of someone who I am actually worried about—Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
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Maitland-Niles went from the calling card of Unai Emery to not even being included on the substitute bench. He is widely regarded as one of our best young players and has been a lifesaver at rightback and right wing when we need him. So why was he nowhere to be seen?
The simple answer is that there is no answer. He’s not on any injury report, either on the Arsenal website or otherwise. The latest news reports have to do with social media and another article, a month ago, wondering what happened to him, penned by yours truly.
Since that article, I’m even more worried. 22-years-old, a first team regular, now he’s not even worthy of a spot on the bench and no one seems to know anything about it. It’s one of those things that is so mummed that I feel like I’m missing something. Like maybe he’s on personal leave or something ridiculous like that, and I was the only one who didn’t find out.
He isn’t with the U23s either, and even if he was, that wouldn’t make it much better. It would be a pure demotion. He wasn’t with the team in the Europa League either, and that might be the most troubling bit of all.
It’s concerning. You’d think that, with the mass of fixtures coming up, we might get a sighting. Hopefully the next relevant article won’t just be me typing into the void a month from now.