Mikel Arteta says Ainsley-Maitland needs to work harder if he’s to be considered for a place in Arsenal’s starting lineup.
The 22-year-old enjoyed regular game time under Unai Emery, often being deployed as a makeshift right-back, but has been conspicuous by his absence in recent weeks under the new regime.
The midfielder did make his first appearance since January when he came on as a stoppage time substitute in the 2-0 FA Cup win against Portsmouth but it sounds like he has more work to do if he’s to earn the trust of the boss.
In his post-game press conference, he said: “Ainsley needs to put his head down and work hard and show me every day in training that he wants it more than anyone else, he wants to play for this club and fight for his place.”
It’s been suggested in some circles that Maitland-Niles’ supposed reticence to play at right-back has gone against him, but Arteta was quick to joke that Sokratis, preferred as back-up to Hector Bellerin at Fratton Park, doesn’t much like the position either.
“He [Sokratis] moans a little bit because it is not his position! But for certain games, he is very helpful and he always has the right attitude and he has the qualities to play there in essential moments when we need him.”
Arteta also explained why he was so regularly seen in conversation with the Greek throughout Monday’s win.
On giving instructions, he said: “Yes, sometimes you need to interpret that when we have the ball it is a little bit different for him to use the spaces like he should do in relation to what the opponents are doing, but in general I think he is doing really well.”