Against Southampton, with Kieran Tierney out injured, Mikel Arteta had 2 choices to play at left back. Cedric Soares or Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Arteta opted to go for the Portuguese international, leaving the Hale End product on the bench.
Last summer Maitland-Niles was on the verge of signing for Wolves in a deal worth around £20million before Arsenal pulled the plug at the last minute.
At the time there were rumours that Hector Bellerin could be off to PSG, so it made sense for Arsenal to keep hold of Maitland-Niles; who would then compete with Cedric at right back.
There was also the conundrum at left back.
With Tierney’s injury and Sead Kolasinac looking for a move away, Edu and Arteta clearly made the decision to keep Maitland-Niles so that they would not be short of numbers.
Up until the victory against Newcastle in the Premier League, it had been Maitland-Niles coming in for Bellerin and Tierney when injured.
Against Newcastle, Cedric replaced Bellerin at right back, with Maitland-Niles not in the squad. Cedric making his first Premier League start of the season.
And against Southampton, Cedric replaced Tierney at left back with Maitland-Niles left on the bench.
The key factor for Arteta when deciding between Maitland-Niles or Cedric seems to be formation.
Of Ainsley Maitland-Niles 5 Premier League starts, only two have come as part of a back 4; with 3 of 5 coming when Arteta opted for 3 at the back.
Against Southampton and Newcastle, Arteta went for 4 at the back and Cedric started.
Moving forward, the feeling is that Arteta will stick with a back 4, which pushes Cedric ahead of Maitland-Niles in the pecking order.
With the club looking at a left footed left back as cover for Kieran Tierney (Ryan Bertrand would be a good option – a blog for another day), that would leave Maitland-Niles struggling for any game time.
His good form at the back end of last season resulted him in making the England squad and winning 3 caps. But he is at risk of missing out on a place at the upcoming Euro’s due to lack of playing time.
If an offer of £20million comes in for him over the next couple of days, it would be a deal that would interest both player and club.
Arsenal would bank some money, using a portion of it to buy a left back who is better in a back 4. Whilst Maitland-Niles would get the playing time he needs to keep his place in the England squad.
Keep an eye on this one over the next few days.