Do Hale End pair have Arsenal future?

Deadline day saw Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock both leave on loan to WBA and Newcastle respectively.

The pairs playing time this season has been severely restricted.

AMN looked on the verge of a break through towards the end of the season; but has started just 5 Premier League games this.

Whilst Joe Willock played 29 Premier League games under in 2019/20, and just 7 this season.

Both players have fallen out of favour and are itching for playing time.

Maitland-Niles nearly left for Wolves in the summer for a deal worth in the region of £20million. But with rumours circulating that Hector Bellerin was unsettled, a decision was made to keep him.

Eventually Bellerin remained, and up’d his game; whilst AMN has also fallen behind Cedric Soares on the right.

The feeling at the club is clearly that AMN is suited to 5 at the back rather than 4; and with Mikel Arteta now playing with a back 4 regularly; the Englishman has found playing time limited.

Arteta also likes a balanced team.

We saw against Crystal Palace that having a right footed left back in a back 4 restricted us and our ability to stretch the game.

When AMN was excelling on the left of a back 5, he had Kieran Tierney inside him. The Scot would often end up outside Maitland-Niles in attacking positions providing that width.

Expect Arsenal to go out and sign a left footed left back in the summer to provide cover for Tierney.

Despite playing a lot of games, Willock has never really forced his way into contention for regular starts.

There have always been question marks over what type of midfielder he is. Is he an 8? Box to box? Or is he a 10 with his late runs into the box?

So do either Mitland-Niles have a future at Arsenal?

My feeling is no.

Maitland-Niles is often lumped in with the likes of Willock, Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson as a “talented youngster”. But he is already 23, and turns 24 at the start of next season. He is no longer a youngster.

Moving into next season, he would be 3rd choice right back and 3rd choice left back (once we make a new signing).

He has never really done it in midfield for Arsenal.

Many have speculated that he could perform well there given a chance, so it will be interested to see if WBA play him in the middle or out wide.

Even if he performs well in the middle, you have to feel his future at Arsenal is still limited as we look to improve the top end of the team in central midfield, not add squad players.

The fact Mohamed Elneny has been continually picked ahead of AMN in the middle of the park highlights that Arteta does not fancy him there.

Arsenal could easily command the £20million that Wolves offer last summer for Maitland-Niles next summer. The feeling is that £20million could be spent on recruiting better than him.

Willock’s time at Arsenal is also coming to an end.

In recent weeks, Emile Smith Rowe has broken into the Arsenal first XI and is putting in performances levels ahead of Willock.

Willock has played just 1 minute of the last 4 Premier League games and has found himself either left on the bench or not even in the match day squad 14 times this season.

With the signing of Martin Ødegaard, Willock has dropped one more down the pecking order.

With Arsenal in the market for a senior 10 to go alongside Smith Rowe (it might end up being Ødegaard), Willock will at best be 3rd choice in that position.

If he reinvents himself at Newcastle as someone who can play a little deeper, as a high energy box to box player, Arsenal might re-integrate him into the team next season.

But like with Maitland-Niles, Arsenal need to be buying better midfielders than we currently have. Is Willock better than Granit Xhaka or Mo Elneny? No.

Is he better than Lucas Torreira or Matteo Guendouzi? No.

If he puts in solid performances in the Premier League, Arsenal would expect to raise £15million selling him.

There has been a lot of hype around Hale End in recent years and it is good to see players from the academy getting opportunities for the first time in decades.

Both Willock and AMN have had plenty of opportunities and have shown themselves to be not quite at the level required.

We sell, raise funds, move on to the next crop.

Final word: It will be easy for fans to say “we should keep them for squad depth and their versatility”, but both are clearly hungry to play regular football. If we can not offer a player regular football we should not stand in their way of leving.

Keenos

1 thought on “Do Hale End pair have Arsenal future?

  1. Jack

    Agree mostly but judging by the extortionate fees other clubs have been getting for young British players (Brewster and Solanke spring to mind) who have played far less minutes in the PL, we should be looking for north of £25m for AMN and around £20m for Willock imo

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