Tag Archives: Ainsley Maitland-Niles

The Return of Arsenal Act II: 2 right backs & 2 free transfers

Morning all.

The Return of Arsenal enters its second act today with a trip down to sunny Brighton.

Originally scheduled for the 13th March, it was a fixture that many were looking forward to.

It was set to be a rare Saturday 3pm kick off for Arsenal. And for travelling fans it would have been trip down to the coast on a fresh spring day. Beers would have been drunk in the sunshine, some would have stayed overnight, and it would have been a top trip.

Instead we will all be at home this Saturday, watching the first ever 3pm Premier League game on the TV.

It might be time to set the TV up outside for these summer fixtures.

The hope is we can bounce back from the predictable defeat to Manchester City on Wednesday against a Brighton side without a win since Boxing Day 2019.

Yesterday Arsenal were linked with West Ham right back Jeremy Ngakia.

The 19-year-old is available on a free transfer following turning down a contract extension.

The move would make a lot of sense.

Arsenal need a back-up for Hector Bellerin.

Buying someone like Max Aarons for £30million makes no sense. The Norwich player is too good (and too expensive) to be Bellerin’s back-up. That deal only makes sense if we sell the Spaniard (unlikely).

A few will be screaming out Jordi Osei-Tutu, who has been in fine form since German football returned.

The on-loan academy product has 2 goals and an assist his 7 games since the return. However he has not been playing at right back.

Osei-Tutu’s improvement at Bochum coincide with him being played further forward on the wing. That decision was made after he was exposed too often at right back.

If he is not good enough defensively to be trusted to play right back in the German second division, as return to Arsenal to be back-up to Bellerin in the Premier League does not make sense.

He also turns 22 in October.

Arsenal should cash in this summer, and use those funds to reinvest. Stick in a sell on clause and a buy back clause so that if he does continue his progression, Arsenal have an option to buy him back or make some cash on a future transfer. His level is probably a promotion chasing Championship team.

Time is also running out for Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

There have always been rumblings that he is unhappy playing at right back. That he wants to be in the middle of the park. There have also been rumours in recent months of him showing a bit of an attitude problem on the training ground.

If he got his nut down, and accepted his position, he has a place at Arsenal as a utility man – covering Bellerin as well as a few other positions.

If he desires to play regularly in the middle of the park, he is best of seeking a new club.

Maitland-Niles is a sellable asset.

In the current market Arsenal could expect to receive up to £10million for him. Key funds that could then be reinvested.

If Arsenal then moved for Ngakia (or Cedric Soares on a free transfer) then any funds bought in from the sale of Maitland-Niles would be available to be invested elsewhere.

A case could also be made for Arsenal to buy both Soares and Ngakia.

Arsenal lack good right back options in the U23s; so the move for Ngakia could see him play U23 football next season, whilst pushing Soares for cup opportunities.

When it comes to finding a back-up for Bellerin, CHEAP is the most important requirement.

With finances tight, we do not want to be spending millions on back-up player.

Ngakia on a free transfer makes a lot of sense.


Arsenal youngster set for summer exit

Regular readers of this blog will know how much we support home grown youngsters.

It is always a delight to see a local lad get his chance and take it in an Arsenal shirt. Sadly for one reason or another, we have not produced enough young players over the last 20 years who have proved good enough for our team week in, week out.

Alex Iwobi, Jack Wilshere and Ashley Cole are the only academy graduates to have joined us at a young age to go on to make over 100 appearances since Ray Parlour in 1992 (note: Kieran Gibbs joined Arsenal at 15-years-old from Wimbledon).

All young lads coming through deserve extra support. They are often Arsenal boys living the dream.

But it is also important to know when a player is not going to make it. When it is time to cash in. Even if selling a home grown lad on the fringes of making it might by tinged with sadness.

Previously we discussed how Eddie Nketiah might be on borrowed to at Arsenal, but it is another Arsenal youngster who looks like he might be out of the door this summer.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is 22. He has been in and around the first team for 6 seasons having made his debut at 17 years old in the Champions League back in 2014. In doing so he became the second youngest player to have represented Arsenal in the Champions League, behind Jack Wilshere.

He has gone on to make 91 appearances for Arsenal, but could have played his last game.

Maitland-Niles was an ever-present in Mikel Arteta’s first 6 games; with Hector Bellerin out injured he was called upon to play right back – the position he has played much of his Arsenal career.

He was on the bench against Chelsea, but has since not been in the match day squad for the last 4 games.

Maitland-Niles was left out of the squad for Saturday’s clash against West Ham despite Bellerin not being fully fit. Sokratis, a centre-back, chosen to play ahead of him at right-back.

In the past, Maitland-Niles has indicated that he would rather play in central midfield than at right back. However with Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock ahead of him, his opportunities in the middle of the park have been limited.

David Ornstein recently commented on the situation on The Ornstein & Chapman Podcast.

“Mikel Arteta isn’t receptive to players indicating where they want to play, they would play where they are told to play for the good of the team… one of the suggestions I got is that he has been late for a couple of training sessions and certainly Arteta wouldn’t like that given the disciple and behaviour and respect culture is so important to him.”

The reported reluctance to play right back is in stark contract to Bukayo Saka who has excelled at left back in recent weeks – despite being a more attacking player.

In January Arsenal added Portuguese international Cedric Soares on loan. With his contract set to expire in the summer, he will likely join the club permanently providing experienced Premier League cover and competition to Bellerin.

Had Maitland-Niles got his head down, he would have had a career at Arsenal as a James Milner-esque utility man; proving cover at full back, on the wings and central midfield. This utility might have seen him break into England squads where he could cover numerous positions at international tournaments.

If it is true that Maitland-Niles has a desire to play in central midfield, he will have to leave Arsenal to get it, and get himself a move to someone lower in the league.

It will be sad to lose the English – in the same way it was tough to let Iwobi go. But if these players have desires to play regularly, or in certain positions, and they are deemed not good enough to do that an Arsenal shirt; the club should not stand in their way.

Maitland-Niles will end up at someone like West Ham or Everton, where he will prove whether he is good enough to be a Premier League midfielder.

What is clear is his Maitland-Niles’ at Arsenal is coming to an end.


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.