Arsenal lost 3-2 to Brentford in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Wednesday afternoon. Here are three takeaways from the defeat.
Arsenal hosted Brentford in their second behind-closed-doors friendly on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for next week’s Premier League restart, which commences with a trip to Manchester City. It did not go well. The Gunners lost 3-2 after conceding two late goals despite taking a 2-1 lead. Of course, drawing meaningful conclusions from such an outing is entirely futile. That said, there are some nuanced lessons to learn.
Here are three takeaways from the defeat.
3. Maitland-Niles plays in central midfield again
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has struggled for opportunities ever since Hector Bellerin returned to full fitness. Having previously filled in for the Spaniard at right-back when he was out injured, Maitland-Niles disappeared from the squad once Bellerin was fit and available. Reading between the lines, he refused to play at right-back and wanted to play in central midfield, instead.
Maitland-Niles has long protested that central midfield is his best position. Whether that is truly the case or not, no one knows at this point, but he has struggled for consistent playing time in midfield throughout his career. So it is telling, then, that he featured heavily in central midfield in both friendlies this week.
The Englishman is keen to fight for his place in the Arsenal team. His playing in central midfield suggests that he has at least earned the chance to fight for more opportunities once the season resumes. Maitland-Niles has the tools to succeed, but can he prove Arteta that he is worthy of regular starts? These last two games suggest he might be able to.