Tag Archives: Ainsley Maitland-Niles

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?


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.



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.


Arsenal youngsters give hope to London kids

Good morning Arsenal fans.

Last night was fun wasn’t it? No just the victory, but the enjoyment of seeing young English lads on the pitch, in Arsenal shirts, and performing.

Yes, it was against a bunch of Ukrainian farmers, playing 200 miles from home who have lost 8 league games this season, but if you used this as a reason to not enjoy the game, well I feel sorry for you.

We ended up with 6 London born players (although Croydon is in Surrey and Goodmayes in Essex) play some part in yesterdays game. add in rob Holding, Carl Jenksinon and Charlie Gilmour and it was 9 English born players. Aaron Ramsey made it 10 British born. It is exciting.

A couple have commented that it does not matter that players are from London or England. Well for a lot of local fans, from London, it does matter. you want to see local boys do good. Fans of the club pulling on that shirt. as long as they are good enough.

Think have the side that came through in the 1980s. The likes of David O’Leary, Tony Adams, Rocky Rocastle, Paul Davis, Michael Thomas, Paul Merson and Martin Hayes. All Londoners, all coming through Arsenal’s academy. People go on about the Class of 92, but these lads were as good, if not better.

What would they have achieved if Liverpool had not got English clubs banned from Europe?

Having players like these. Boys from the estates and streets we grew up in, increases the affinity towards the club.

Look at Ian Wright speak during the 89 film. The estate he grew up on was the same as the one Rocky did. In a poverty stricken, deprived area of London, Rocky starring for Arsenal made it a better place to live. Success for Rocky meant success for every single person living there. This is what football can do.

The group of lads now, the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock are the best group of London born lads to come through at Arsenal since that team of the 1980s. Add Alex Iwobi and Reiss Nelson to the mix and it is likely that 25% of the squad next season will be made up of Londoners (and before you start about Iwobi, he came to London when he was 3. He is a Londoner.)

I have been bashing the drum of the Arsenal academy recently.

It was poor for a few years, but that was in the past. Some fans need to realise it is now 2018, not 2012, and that we have a fantastic crop of youngsters coming through.

Yesterday we saw the 4 academy graduates start. Maitland-Niles, Nketiah, Smith Rowe and Willock. Alongside Iwobi and Nelson these boys will be in the first team squad next season. But on the bench yesterday there was also plenty to get excited about; showing that the Arsenal academy is in good health.

Charlie Gilmour, Zech Medley, Jordi Osei-Tutu, Tyreece John-Jules & Bukayo Saka were all on the bench. That made it 9 academy players in 18 man squad. 12 of the 20 man travelling squad were Arsenal boys.

Of the 11 players to finish the game, 6 were still just teenagers.

Of course, there is still a long way to go for these lads. Some will make it, some won’t. But the 7 who go on the pitch will always be able to say that they played for The Arsenal.

A few people have commented about the failure of Arsenal’s academy “over the last 20 years” and it is a semi-valid argument. However there is a bigger debate to be had. all top sides in England have struggled to produce academy players in the last 20 years.

It is so much easier to buy off the shelf rather than give a kid a go. Manchester City signed Leroy Sane instead of giving a run out to Jadon Sancho. They repeated it this summer; signing Riyad Mahrez instead of showing faith in Phil Foden. It is so hard as an academy player to get a chance. Title chasing sides just won’t give you the chance.

Like with Ashley Cole (passport issues) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (injuries); you need luck to break through at a top side. To get that run in the team.

Have a look at the England team that made it through to the semi-final of the World Cup. Sunderland (2), Sheffield United (2), Leeds United (2) MK Dons, Ipswich Town, Barnsley, QPR, Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Watford and Sporting were the academies that the vast majority of the squad came from.

Whilst Manchester City and Chelsea have dominated youth football over the last decade, they provided just two players to the England squad. Ruben Loftus Cheeck and Kieran Tripper (who Man City let go after he failed to play a single game).

Playing in the Europa League can bu hugely beneficial for young players.

The likes of Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith Rowe & Ainsley Maitalnd-Niles have got their chance in the competition over the last 18 months. Chances they would not get if Arsenal were in the Champions League. they would have been reduced to just League Cup appearances.

Whilst it is frustrating for some not to be in the Champions League, every cloud has a silver lining. And seeing so many London lads involved last night certainly makes up for Arsenal not being in the Champions League.

London is a state at the moment. Knife wielding drug gangs, moped thieves, acid attacks. A lot of young (often black) kids growing up on the estates are struggling for recognition. To define themselves. They have little to be proud of except for how many hits their drill music video gets on YouTube.

The likes of Reiss Nelson (Elephant & Castle), Eddie Nketiah (Lewisham), Emile Smith Rowe (Croydon), Joe Willock (Waltham Forest) & Ainsley Maitland (Goodmayes) come from some of the most deprived areas of London.

If they succeed at Arsenal, they can give other boys from similar backgrounds hope. They can give them something to be proud of, something to celebrate, just like Rocky, Davis and Thomas did back in the 80s.

Up The Arsenal.