Arsenal: We don’t need another Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Arsenal, Bukayo Saka (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Bukayo Saka (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images) /

Arsenal are running on fumes in some regards thanks to injuries, but we just don’t need to see another Ainsley Maitland-Nile develop. Not now.

Arsenal‘s bout with the injury bug isn’t getting any better. After a disappointing loss at home to Chelsea, we saw yet more players go down, and more still are being asked to play out of position. Bukayo Saka is the prime example of that. With Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac both out, Saka is our leftback for the foreseeable future.

For as talented as this young man is, his talents do not lie at leftback. He’s a winger, and no one should doubt that for a second. If you needed any extra proof, watch him against Chelsea.

Sure, he’s talented, but asking him to do as much as was required against Chelsea was too much. He was thoroughly gassed by the end, as can be seen in that second gnawing goal that Chelsea scored.

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I know that Saka is only filling in because of the desperation currently plaguing the position, but I do hope that we don’t get into a situation of needing another Ainsley Maitland-Niles situation.

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Ainsley Maitland-Niles had been a winger until desperation called him in to play rightback. Unfortunately for him, thanks to injuries to Hector Bellerin, Maitland-Niles never left. And in the meantime, he was passed up by several other right wingers, both youngsters and signings alike. Now, Maitland-Niles best hope at playing is at rightback.

Bukayo Saka isn’t at risk yet. But he is currently being passed up by Gabriel Martinelli, and with Reiss Nelson back on the rise, there may come a time when Bukayo Saka finds his way through the winger ranks blocked and his best hope at leftback.

What this really depends on is the club’s ability to keep hold of both Tierney and Sead Kolasinac. There have been rumors that Kolasinac could be sold, which would leave just Tierney and… well, presumably Bukayo Saka. Which is what I worry about.

Maitland-Niles has grown into a formidable rightback, but there was a massive learning curve that we really don’t need to experience all over again. He’s still a great player, but he’s been out of position for years now. Saka can’t become another such situation.

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There’s no reason to fear yet. But it is something to keep an eye on. Like I said, the best way to avoid it altogether is to keep Tierney and Kolasinac.