Has Ainsley Maitland-Niles Played His Last Game for Arsenal?
Call it stubbornness or determination, but Maitland-Niles is insisting on persevering in central midfield despite having played as a full-back for the best part of two years. Sam Allardyce has either convinced him of minutes in that role or at least suggested he’ll get a chance in both, what Arsenal can’t provide him at this time.
Could he have been given more opportunities in central midfield? There is a case to suggest some of the outings given to Joe Willock et al could have gone by his way, sure. The opportunity has also been there for him to knuckle down and really excel in the right-back slot. Defensively he’s shown himself to be superb in certain areas, and he could be pushing Cedric or even Hector Bellerin at this point.
It’s clear that he has his own ideas of where his career should be heading. The longer there is a divided opinion internally about where he should be fielded long-term, then he won’t have a future at Arsenal. It does now feel like he’ll have played his final game for the club ahead of a summer sale.
At West Brom, Maitland-Niles may struggle in central midfield even if it is where he feels best suited, simply due to the change in style with the Baggies compared to Arsenal as well as the struggles facing them this season.
Lacking in quality across the pitch, the drop off could be quite telling for the 23-year-old. Equally, he could grasp the chance to demonstrate his talent aside players who’re deep in relegation trouble.
It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on in the midlands; whether he takes his opportunity or if the vast differences between his parent club and temporary employers plays a telling role. What this does do, is make Arsenal fans actually tune in to West Brom matches. Much rejoicing, even if it feels like the end of the road.