Tag Archives: Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Arsenal pair to “job share” next season

Yesterday I was doing what a lot of us do when bored, writing down how I hope the Arsenal squad would look next season.

When I got to central defenders, I had Calum Chambers in the “sell” column, I then began to doubt myself.

Next season Arsenal need to sign a right back to cover Hector Bellerin and a central midfielder to (potentially) replace Mohamed Elneny.

In the squad at the moment we have utility man Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

The Englishman has spent a lot of his senior Arsenal career playing full back or wing back; but there has always been the feeling that he is best playing in the middle of the park.

Maitland-Niles would be a competent 2nd choice right back behind Bellerin, and 4th choice central midfielder backing up Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira & Matteo Guendouzi. What he can not be, however, is both at one time. That will leave the squad too short of players.

So next season Arsenal need to add either a back up for Bellerin to the squad, and have Maitland-Niles as a specialist midfielder, or a central midfielder and continue pushing Maitland-Niles to right back.

Straight away your mind will start thinking about “what players we could buy”.

Houboulang Mendes is one name that has been mentioned a few times. You then have the young lad Max Aarons at Norwich. There are also senior options such as Juanfran on a free from Atletico Madrid.

If we decide to pursue a central midfielder instead, Joan Jordan from Eibar in Spain has been heavily linked in recent weeks. There has also been plenty of talk about Adrien Rabiot.

Arsenal could, however, decide to fill the role from within and use Calum Chambers.

Like Maitland-Niles, Chambers has spent a lot of his career playing at both full-back and central midfield. He has been the shining light for Fulham this season and has seen his stock rise.

His performances for Fulham create a double positive for Arsenal.

His value would have soared after his performances. He is certainly good enough to play midfield for a mid-table Premier League side. We would expect northwards of £20million were we to sell him.

But he has also proved that he is a reliable, Premier League quality central midfielder.

If Arsenal went out into the transfer market, would we find a better player than Chambers to be 4th choice. Add in his Premier League experience and home grown status and keeping him as 4th choice would be attractive.

You could have him in a job share alongside Maitland-Niles.

Both cover similar positions, but both are very different players.

Chambers is more defensive; whilst Maitland-Niles better at getting forward.

Were Bellerin to be out against (for example) Brighton at home, it would make more sense to play Maitland-Niles at right back rather than Chambers. But if we were away to Manchester City, the more defensive option in Chambers would be better.

In the middle of the park, who plays could depend on who is out.

Xhaka and Torreira are a good partnership.

The Swiss-man is fairly static whilst Torreira gets around the park.

Were it Xhaka to be out, you would probably punt for Chambers, who would provide a disciplined defensive option in the middle. This would then free up Torreira or Guendouzi to press.

And if it was Torreira that was out, Maitland-Niles would be preferable so that you keep someone with high energy alongside Xhaka.

Instead of pigeon holing both Maitland-Niles and Chambers into one position or another, you could have them covering both right back and the defensive midfield.

Both would be 2nd choice right back. Both would be 4th choice central midfielder. And who plays depends on the opponent.

I am still leaning towards selling Chambers.

The £20-30million that we could receive for him could be put alongside the £20-30million that we would also get for selling Shkodran Mistafi. That could then be rapped up and spent on a top class defender such as Samuel Umtiti.

This option would still leave us need to buy either a new right back or a 4th choice central midfielder; which we could easily afford due to having around £100million available to us this summer.

Chambers just gives us something to think about.

Keenos

FIVE candidates to replace Hector Bellerin

There has not yet been official news out over the state of Hector Bellerin’s injury. Post match, Unai Emery described it as “not positive on first impression”.

From my years of watching football, it is safe to say that the Spanish right back will be out for the season.

It was one of those injuries where no one is near him, it was innocuous. The referee stopped play straight away and it was clear it was something serious. Whether is is an ACL injury or some other injury that we will now all pretend to be experts in, he will be out for some time. He might not return the same player.

With 10 days to go in the transfer window, Emery and the management  team have a decision to be made.

Do they attempt to bring someone in, or do they replace from within?

FIVE

The experienced right back was bought in to cover Hector Bellerin in case he got injured and has already started 13 games this season. It looks like father time has caught up on the serial winner.

He has been fairly average when playing. Some would be a lot harsher than that – although his worst performances have come when playing out of position in the centre of defence.

I doubt he will be with us next season, however he might find himself with a role to play this.

Will be the choice if we go for experience.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Against West Ham, Maitland-Niles was at right wing back ahead of Lichtsteiner. Although he was substituted on the half hour for Bellerin.

Whilst the utility man might see his future as a winger, and some fans see him as a central midfielder, it is at full back where he has started the vast majority of his games for Arsenal.

Of his 23 starts for Arsenal i neither the Premier League or Europa League, 19 have come at full back (14 at left back). His future at the club could well be as a full back.

Last season he was picked ahead of both Saed Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal at left back, such was his good form.

He has been out of form this season, but that is a lot to do with a lack of consistency in playing position.

Maitland-Niles certainly has the physical attributes to play at full back, he has pace and power and the engine to get up and down. He would also provide us the attacking outlet that the side relies on – our full backs are our width.

Defensive naivety is the concern.

He can switch off, or jog back when caught up the field. Although this is not unusual for a young full back.

Given the opportunity to play consistently at right back, his defensive instincts will naturally improve. He will also have Sokratis inside him and  – if we stick to the mdifield 3 who started against Chelsea – Lucas Torreira ahead.

If Maitland-Niles gets the chance, and proves himself to be adequate cover for Bellerin, it would mean we would not need to go out into the market in the summer to buy cover for Bellerin. The Englishman could step up as his long term understudy.

Carl Jenkinson

One of the criticisms of Maitland-Niles is “he is not a right back”. This line of thinking would lead some to support Carl Jenkinson starting.

It is incredible to think that Jenkinson turns 27 in February. He is certainly living the dream. But is living the dream enough?

He is certainly not a bad player – and it is easy to forget that he spent a year and a half at West Ham playing consistently at right back.

A bit like Maitland-Niles, if he gets a chance and takes it, the club may well decide that he is an adequate mid-term back up for Bellerin.

Personally I think he has had his chance, and it is time for someone else to get one.

If we are going to “give someone a chance” I would rather it be the younger man in Maitland-Niles.

Shkodran Mustafi

If I say we had a World Cup winning right back in our squad, you would probably ask “who?”. that man is German international Shkodran Mustafi.

Back in 2014, he was selected to start at right back in Germany’s round of 16 match against Algeria. It was only an injury that stopped him seeing out the tournament as Germany’s first choice full back.

Mustafi could do a job at right back, like he has done numerous times throughout his career. He would provide decent defensive cover, over and above anyone else on this list. However he will not provide any attacking threat.

At Arsenal, it is the full backs that give us the width. With no recognised wingers, playing Mustafi at right back would give us little to no threat on the right hand side.

Sign Someone

The last candidate is a new signing.

Whether it be a loan signing or a permanent signing, we would have 10 days to go out into the transfer market and secure someone.

The problem is who would we secure?

Someone on loan would likely not be playing at the club they are at. If they are not playing at AC Milan, Roma or whoever, would they then be a better option than Maitland-Niles? And would a top club in Europe, chasing a Champions League place, really want to loan out their second choice right back?

The alternative option is signing someone on a permanent deal, but who?

Do we go for someone who could be long term understudy for Bellerin? And if so how much should we invest in them – Aaron Wan-Bissaka would be north of £20m. Or do we go big. Go for someone better than Bellerin who will actually be his long term replacement. But is spending £35m+ on a right back sensible when we have so many other positions to upgrade on.

Keenos

Unai Emery’s developing a new “British Core” at The Arsenal

December 2012, London was floating in a post-Olympic boom. Arsenal announced new contracts for 5 young British players.

Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as signed a new contract on the same day (in front of the cameras at least). The message was clear.

After years of Arsenal being the foreign legion of English football; the future was English (and Welsh, like the cricket team). Theo Walcott made it a Dirty Dozen of talented players under 25-years-old.

The success for Arsenal based on the British core; and success for England would surely be built around 5 of the 6 players.

Roll forward to 2019 and, with Aaron Ramsey set to leave on a free transfer, only one man remains. Carl Jenkinson. I wonder what odds you would have got back in 2012 that the former Charlton trainee would outlast his more talented colleagues.

In the cup competitions this season, the League Cup, Europa League and last weekend in the FA Cup, Unai Emery has given a whole host of young players a chance.

It may still be early, but Emery is developing his own British Core.

Emery inherited two first team British players in Rob Holding and Alex Iwobi.

Prior to his injury, Holding was Arsenal’s most improved player this season. He has been sorely missed since his injury, testament to his development. He has put himself into contention to be long term first choice centre back. The talk amongst many is that we now need to buy Holding a partner. We no longer need to buy two starting central defenders.

Whilst he now plays for Nigeria, the country of his birth, Iwobi is certainly British.

Born in Lagos, he moves to London at the age of 4. Now 22, he has spent 18 years in the capital. His London twang and swagger. He is as much a Londoner as he is a Nigerian. He has paved the way for the flood of further Londoners coming through.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has now been in and around the first team for a couple of seasons. In recent weeks he has shown his quality and utility. Playing left back, right back, central midfield and on the wing. Still just 21, he has a future for Arsenal and England as a James Milner-type utility man.

A whole host of other youngsters have also got game time in the cup competitions.

Eddie Nketiah was unlucky not to get a hat trick against Blackpool in the FA Cup. Anyone that has watched him at youth level would have been surprised by his misses. He is a clinical finisher.

With Danny Welbeck set to leave at the end of this season, expect Nketiah to lead the line in the cup competitions next season.

Whilst Nketiah missed his chances yesterday, Joe Willock scored two.

The youngster stalled last season, and struggled in his senior games. This season he has gone from strength to strength, and now has 3 goals in his 3 senior games.

He is developing into a box to box midfielder, becoming a very smart player able to get forward and back at speed. His ability to find space in the box reminds you of Aaron Ramsey. Should Arsenal replace the Welshman from within?

Currently returning from injury is Emile Smith Rowe. He has been the standout youngster of this season. A classy attacking player who can play in all 3 positions behind the front 3, he has a big future at Arsenal.

Dropping down an age group now is two very talented kids.

Bukayo Saka could be the best of the lot. Just 17-years-old, he has pace, power and technique.

Arsenal should consider sending him down a similar route as Reiss Nelson. A year in Germany getting plenty of game time, he would come back a different player. This lad is going to be quality.

Finally we have Zech Medley.

I have been frustrated that during Arsenal’s defensive injury crisis, Emery has gone for Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichsteiner in defence rather than give a chance to 18-year-old Medley.

Medley, like Nketiah, was on the books of Chelsea before joining Arsenal at 16-years-old. He looks to have it all.

A towering centre back, he showed bravery and strength in the air with one challenge against Blackpool. He pairs his height and power with fabulous ball playing ability. Alongside speed across the ground, he has it all to become a modern ball playing central defender.

To top it all off, he is left footed. A left sided central defender seems like the holy grail in the modern game.

He probably will not start challenging for the first team on a regular basis for another 2 and a half seasons – 2021/22. This might seem a long time away, but Medley would be barely 21-years-old.

Certainly one to leave in the box, playing youth team level and keep an eye on for the future.

Some of these lads might make it at Arsenal, some might not. One thing is for certain, however; they have all lived the dream playing for The Arsenal.

The highlight of 2018/19 so far has been watching so many local boys getting their chance.

Keenos