Arsenal: 3 players for whom one more year is key

Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /
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Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

2. Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ time under Mikel Arteta has been curious, to say the least. He was so brilliant in an inverted right-back role when Arteta first arrived. Then, as soon as Hector Bellerin, he was nowhere to be seen, immediately dropping out of the squad, even behind Sokratis who filled in at right-back ahead of the self-professed midfielder.

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Despite this dumping from the squad, and a growing sense that Maitland-Niles will not be a part of Arteta’s plans and is free to leave the club in the summer, he only turns 23 this summer and his contract does not expire for another three years. There is no need to rush the decision. And there are two key reasons to be patient.

The first is that Maitland-Niles’ versatility is valuable. While everyone is keen to anoint every half-talented young player as a future starter, the reality is that many will not reach that level. But being a versatile depth player is still an extremely important role to play. If Maitland-Niles had a similar career to James Milner, that is massive for Arsenal.

Secondly, if he was to accept that his midfield dreams are unrealistic, he might yet develop into an elite right-back. Bellerin is the starter for now, yes, but Maitland-Niles has outperformed in the position under Arteta thus far. If he is willing to amend his attitude and commit to the position, Arsenal could yet uncover an elite full-back.