Friday, January 27, 2023

Emery wants defensive improvement from Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac

Unai Emery says he’s using pre-season to try and strengthen the defensive play of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac.

The pair were regularly deployed as wing-backs in a five-man backline last season, a formation that plays to their attacking qualities, but the boss also wants them to be comfortable as traditional full-backs in a four man defence.

It sounds as though the duo struggled at times during last night’s International Champions Cup victory over Bayern Munich in Los Angeles, but Emery isn’t concerned at this point. He just wants them to work on improving.

“I spoke with him [Maitland-Niles after the game],” Emery told his post-game press conference. “It’s good to have this problem in the pre-season.

“Today my objective with Ainsley and Sead [Kolasinac] above all; we were playing lots of matches last year with three centre-backs to allow them to go to the attacking moment.

“Today our target was to work defensively, the first objective is to keep the back four [protected].

“They struggled in one moment because Bayern Munich have very good wingers. But it’s good.

“It’s one process for us and them. Individually when we can play maybe against players like Coman and Gnabry we can play five to have more balance. Today one-to-one working is good for them.”

We’re guessing here, but we suspect the boss would like to play a back four more regularly next season. Given that Hector Bellerin and potential new-signing Kieran Tierney will in all likelihood start the new campaign on the sidelines, it certainly makes sense to focus on Sead and Ainsley.

We already know that Nacho can play the left-back position although the older he gets the more susceptible he is to the pace of opposition wingers.

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Fingers crossed we can play the back four more effectively and for the majority of the coming season. Not sure right-back is where AMN should be, but it looks like he’s been played into that position and I hope he’s up for the massive challenge.


Agreed on AMN, always think we should play him either in midfield or as a winger.

Reality check

Don’t think AMN has mastered the composure or the passing to play in midfield. The amount of passes he misses playing at wingback, he’ll be the next mustafi if he does the same in midfield.

Kwame Ampadu Down

I think we will move to playing 4-2-3-1 (ish) much more regularly. I think AMN would fit in best on the right wing, playing in front of Bellerin….Hut unless we buy a RB (which is unlikely given all our other needs) I think he will be playing RB up until Bellerin is up to speed…
As for Kolasinac …I assume the plan is to sell him if the Tierney deal gets over the line ?


Kolasinac can be the Wing back option for rotation though, don’t wanna break Tierney, right?

Kwame Ampadu Down

Assuming we’re going to a back 4 it will be full back, not wing back…..and guessing Nacho will be the back up. Rather keep him around to mentor Tierney & realistically we can’t keep all 3 ? Kola is not good enough defensively to play in a back 4.

#yolo toure

We’re also losing lolo and not signing an immediate replacement, and even though he doesn’t like it, nacho has done decent for us at cb so…


Saw Kolasinac talking to Kovac after the game against Bayern..could it be something?


Yes, it is called a conversation. ??


Hope so, but after some improvement in the earlier part of last season, the “regular” defence returned to it’s bad habits just when it counted – and we got the disgraceful collapse in the EPL and the Europa League final. Mustafi is a real weak link here. His lack of real quality and his £150,000 a week salary mean no bids yet, but he’s certainly at top of Emery’s departure list.

Fart Overjars

seems like a smart move. put them up against these wingers in pre season, expose them to some relentless skinning and perhaps theyll be more confident in these 1v1 duels come the start of the season?


There’s got to be some workable variant of the 442 without the overlapping fullbacks, right?


Really feel for AMN. It’s just not, and never has been, his position. This has shades of when Ox kept getting shunted to Rwb and we know how that ended, with him out the door. Ainsley ran the show from CM in Wenger’s last game at old trafford if I remember rightly, just give him a chance.


Great comment. I remember AW putting AMN at RB/RWB to “learn the trade” outside of his natural position & me argumenting waaaay back that he’s already overplaying him there.

Fast forward and he’s still there. I understand it’s partially caused by other factors such as Bellerin’s injury, but I don’t think we should start the season with him as our 1st RB/RWB choice until Bellerin’s back – his defensive qualities simply aren’t sufficient and could cost us before Hector is truly back – and that could take time


It’s interesting because, unlike Ox, AMN seems to think his best position is as a winger. Personally I think he looks more comfortable in the centre. Hopefully he gets chances in either position.


I thought i heard him say that he prefers centre midfield the most. Maybe he simply likes being a winger better than being a fullback.


I love AMN, I think if he can make a position his home (which will be very tough) he’s a great squad player, and could be a first team regular. I do not see him on the wing though. He does have good pace and a few tricks up his sleeve, but he’s just not the threat we need on the wings.


I really like AMN but his problem is he’s a bit of a jack of all trades. He’s not a winger (of our calibre needed anyway), clearly not a FB of Bellerin quality (although he can do a job there) and I’m not sold that he’s the answer to our midfield problems, although he can do a job there as well.

Who could you say he can emulate as a top quality midfielder? What qualities does he have that set him out above the rest and could make him a first team regular?


I’d say he’s very comfortable on the ball, has an engine, quick, powerful, somewhat disciplined (if a bit rash) and can dribble. From what little I’ve seen of him at CM I’d say he has an eye for a pass as well, but I’d need to see more to be sure.


Disappointing to here AMN will probably still be a wing back next season. Can’t help but wonder if we’re going to end up repeating the mistake we made with Ox. Hopefully Nelson isn’t played there as well like he was under Wenger!

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

I expect him to try to get a transfer to a team who will play him in midfield if we keep shoehorning him into RWB for another season.


It’s a wild idea I know, but how about getting rid of Mustafi for something better?

North London is Redder

I call troll. This is an article about AMN and Sead. We all agree that Mustafi isn’t up to the task of a starting CB at Arsenal but constantly bringing him up every article is depressing and unwarranted. Lets just get behind the team. Big win last night, even if it is pre-season.


I’m not a troll and I don’t bring him up constantly. It’s not news that we need to improve our defence and quite desperately. I want that to happen before the season starts.


Here’s a wilder Idea, Changing the bleeding record


I really like AMN as a player both on and off the pitch. Seems really level-headed and a good fit for our team – just not as a full-time defender. Perhaps as an emergency, but that’s about it.

The problem is that people often seem to be playing out of position, which makes no sense, especially if you’ve got the time now to get a balance.


Tierney is such a risk, he’s been injured for 270 days and counting over the last three seasons, and he’s only 22. Monreal is at one game a week stage of his career, and Bellerin+Holding are coming back off big injuries, we don’t want to end up in a cycle of overplaying players, and then they get injured as well, we’ll never find defensively stability if we’re not careful. I really like Maitland Niles, and can understand if there’s teething problems with him learning a new position, whilst also getting to grips with first team football, but it’ll be much… Read more »


He’s also playing in scotland


Didn’t Van Dijk play in Scotland when we were linked with him?…


Yes, that is true but if we manage him better, there would not be such injury woes with him. He has played around 40 games each of the last 3-4 seasons. If you speak to any Celtic fans they’d tell you that he’s basically being ran into ground and that is what is leading to such injuries. So maybe if we get him, we can rotate a bit better and he might not be as injury prone.


I think we all know emery would much rather play a back four. He must be confident of incomings as well because he’s getting current players to adapt to this system rather than making the most of their talents like he knows they’re all he has


maitland niles needs to play as a midfielder. wenger played him rb also as he said it would help his game but his long term future is midfield last season due to bellerin injury and the past it lichtensteiner, niles was played there. the more he plays in that position the more he will end up becoming a utility player – which would be a waste of talent rather than sending that young lad totu out on loan he could have been afforded a chance as he was right back in the youth teams – the club really needs to… Read more »


Maitland-Niles got fried a few times by Coman, Alaba and Lewandowski. If you are going to look like an idiot, you can justify it if these guys are the ones making you look average. It’s pre-season, these were highlights, and all other caveats apply. But what it shows is that Maitland-Niles should not be a long term option there. But, at this point he’s played more as a RWB than a MF.


Good to see Arsenal finally making some signings with Megan Rapinoe now wearing the number 10.


Sounds like cant be bothered to even mention Mustafi anymore. Just seeing him on the training pitch every morning but truly suck the life out of the man.

Forest gooner

Chambers was huge yesterday. Should be starting alongside Papa. Papa will cover chamber’s lack of pace. Having a good passing ability, Chambers can start passing from the back.


I don’t really know why you guys here are constanty visioning AMN in the middle or even as a winger. Both Wenger and Emery played him in 90-95% as a defender or a wing-back at best. If the DM or winger position would be his best that would mean both of Emery’s and Wenger’s football knowledge failed while judging his capabilities. Besides… I don’t think he was that bad today. What has really messed up his performance was: Kingsley Coman. But I think his injuries in the past masked his incredible talent – without those I think he can easily… Read more »

“Individually when we can play maybe against players like Coman and Gnabry we can play five to have more balance.”

I dunno why, but this concerned me a bit.
Sounds completely reasonable, but leaves me with a sense that though he’s trying a back 4 in he preseason, when it comes to the crunch, he’s still likely to revert to a back 5 and sacrifice some offensive play for it.

Maybe I’m just reading too much into it. But good he’s still open to a back 4.


You’re not reading too much into it.


Absolutely right. AND BOTH can improve. AMN is RBack. That is his natural position and he will push Bellerin. He is night and day over Jenkinson who can’t even start ahead of Mustafi. I don’t understand why so many people have their minds in a shackle and keep repeating the mantra it is not his natural position. It is as much his natural position now as it was Chambers at Soton. He is a young player with great athleticism and recovery strength. He has rough edges as expected and will improve. He also adds plenty of endeavor and risk going… Read more »

Crash Fistfight

Refers to people repeating the same mantra without the slightest hint of irony.


We won’t be playing a back 4 without a strong addition in at Cback. Saliba is a waste of 27m going back out on loan and should he fail to prove on promise, we have a massive loss with impact to future purchases not to mention we may be stuck with him for a while. Koscielny is not the answer either. Inconvenient truth is we leaked 3 goals to mighty Wolves when we switched to the ‘preferred’ in the minds of some people pairing of Sokratis-Koscielny. Again in Europa finals, we succumbed to another 4 goals. We again look like… Read more »


Buy Tierney and Alves, sell Kolasinac and Elneny, then put Maitland-Niles in midfield where Elneny is at, problem solved


AMN’s defence runs very hot and cold. If he can gain some consistency, that would be good. But what when Bellerin is fit? Back-up RBs don’t generally get a ton of games.

I have no idea what AMN’s best position is, but he’s got some talent for sure.

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