Thursday, July 7, 2022

Maitland-Niles hoping to compete with close friend Bellerin for right-back berth

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has built up a close friendship with Hector Bellerin whilst progressing through the ranks at the Arsenal academy, but, in an unexpected turn of events, the pair could soon find themselves as rivals for the right-back position in the first-team.

Bellerin is firmly established as Arsenal’s first-choice option in that area of the field, while Maitland-Niles has spent the vast majority of his career to date either as a winger or a central midfielder.

Of late, though, with Mathieu Debuchy and Carl Jenkinson still working their way back from injury, Arsene Wenger has decided to use Maitland-Niles at right-back in first-team training sessions, despite his very limited experience in that position.

The 19-year-old, who is renowned for his ability to burst forwards and play neat passes, has played just two games at right-back for Arsenal U23s (one of which was two seasons ago) and he didn’t look especially comfortable on either occasion.

However, when given an opportunity to impress in that position for the first-team away to Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup in midweek, Maitland-Niles thrived.

The England youth international was one of Arsenal’s most impressive performers as he won several aerial duels, kept the ball well and also provided an attacking threat. In truth he wasn’t posed too many problems by Forest, but he coped with the task impressively.

What will be interesting to see is whether this is a one-game experiment or a longer-term plan. Arsenal, of course, have frequently elected to change the positions of young players- Bellerin himself was previously a winger, as was Kieran Gibbs, and Maitland-Niles could well be the next in line to make the transition into becoming a full-back.

Last season was a significant leaning curve for Maitland-Niles as he commenced his loan spell at Ipswich in impressive fashion but was barely being used by the end of the campaign.

Now back at Arsenal, he has made an impressive start to the season at youth level, which was built upon with his display against Forest.

Maitland-Niles will hope to start at right-back against Reading in the next round, even though Debuchy may well be back available again. It is the possibility of a duel with his friend Bellerin, though, that is most intriguing.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird


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Sheffield Arse

Options, options. So many options…


I think he should be developed as a full back because of his speed and technical ability just like bellerin he is very quick off the line he’s got very good take off and recovery pace, i noticed especially against nothingham forest he did well for the most part positionally but a few times he was caught out of position he recovered brilliantly with that pace hes got it saved him a few times where if he was a slower player he would’ve been glaring. He can dribble he can pass being a winger he’s got a very good cross… Read more »


Though Forest didn’t have a winger directly running at him, so it’s difficult to judge how good he is one on one, I felt his positional play was excellent for someone who had never played the role before.


I wondered about this when I saw he played right back for the u23s a few weeks ago. I feel his chances of breaking into the first team in midfield are limited but at right back there could be an opportunity if he can do well there in cup games this season. Maybe have a loan move where he can play there regularly either second half of this season or next he could challenge Jenkinson as Bellerin’s understudy (I’m assuming Debuchy will leave – if not in January next summer)


Has all the skills and similar playing style and ability to Bellerin.
His chances are RW are very limited, and he’s unlikely to make it there due to the competition. But he’s so talented.

He’s also one of the few to have a relatively successful loan last season after Toral, under the radar. Though as the article says, his appearances diminished towards the (and timely, after the outburst and intervention of his crazy mum).


after his good loan spell i really thought that this guy would break into the team as an attacking midfielder . he was really good playing there . i know he have to compete for that position , but lets be honest here only iwobi and sanchez offer any kind of competition for him. he can easily be better than ox walcot and even campbell based on his potential.
i just think he could’ve been good attacking player for us, but whatever wenger must know more about him i guess.


That will be interesting. I hope another precious gem at right back can be unearthed in him.


Is he the one with the crazy mum who tried to invade the pitch when he didn’t clean his room or something?


Winger, central midfielder and now right back. The boy is certainly talented.

I just hope his mummy is ok with it all.


Call me crazy, but I don’t think we’re going to be extending Mathieu Debuchy. I’m sure he’s going to be heartbroken.


Lauren, Bellerin, Cole, Gibbs – Wenger has a pretty solid track record of converting attacking players into full backs.


exactly , was about to say this. wenger has good track record in devoloping fullbacks and strikers .


Can’t really say much from one game against Forrest especially as teams this season generally tend to neglect our RBs and focus more on our LBs (as pointed out by 7am).

One thing I did notice while re-watching the game though, he seems to deliver some very good crosses into the box! Which for me is probably the only small weakness I see in bellerin. Crossing.

Hope he develops well and adds more quality competition to that RB. Good times!


Could this be it, for the ‘loyal’ Debuchy. He really proved to be Arsenal’s ‘number two’.

Victoria Concordia via Gaborone

Im still not convinced…in the forest game he wasnt really tested defensively…and he tended to drift into more central positions a tad bit too much for my liking…..I wont take anything away from the lad, he had a good game…but one game is not enough for me to draw a conclusion…


Wierd things are going on at Rback. Bellerin is de facto encumbent. But Debuchy is no where to be found. Is his ind again distracted somewhere-else? Chambers should have been IMO reverted to his natural role but Wenger seems to continue with trying to fashion him into a Cback (on loan). But we already have Holding. If Per should step down next season, that still leaves 4 options at Cback – Koscielny, Mustafi, Gabriel and Holding Then there’s Jenkinson recovering. Does he even factor or (as IMO) is he too limited technically. Now we have Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the mix… Read more »


He can learn a lot: how to be energetic and commited from bellerin, how to love the club you play for from jenks, and what happens when you’re a whiny asshole from debuchy ?


Yeah… please give Arsene good problem.

gunnerfan ov crystal palace

Good ability pace like you say just needs the right position in first team midfield or right back

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