When Mikel Arteta made his first substitution in the 2-0 win over Wolves on Saturday, it was slightly surprising to see Ainsley Maitland-Niles replace Kieran Tierney as the left sided wing-back.

He has played on that side before, getting a run of games under Arsene Wenger, but hasn’t played there for some time. In fact, his playing time has been quite limited in general, so it was great to see him get into the game as quickly as he did, working hard to help contain the threat of the wickedly quick Adama Traore.

The 22 year old looked to be someone who was heading towards the Emirates exit door, with suggestions he’d refused to play at right back. In truth, he merely expressed his desire to play in his more favoured positions, but the return to fitness of Hector Bellerin and the arrival of Cedric Soares left him somewhat out in the cold.

However, he says he’s happy to play wherever Arteta asks him to, telling the Mail, “I didn’t mean I don’t want to play there because I would be happy to fill in and slot in and do the job anytime, anyplace.

“Obviously I do prefer playing central midfield but that is not to say I don’t want to play right-back or that I’m not going to do the job there if the manager asks me to.

“If the manager says to me ‘Ains you gotta go in goal this game I will put the gloves on and I am ready to rock n roll’.”

Maitland-Niles now has almost 100 first team appearances under his belt, and as the most senior of this new generation of Hale End graduates, he’s convinced the Academy boys have what it takes to be part of Arteta’s rebuild.

“It’s definitely possible that we can have a homegrown generation,” he said. “The players have got the talent, they have got the physicality, they’ve got the brainpower to do it.

“It’s just about whether the manager has the trust in the players to play them all at the same time and if he wants to take that big risk.

‘Maybe there will be a few mistakes, a few points cost here and there in the beginning but, in the long run, I think it will be very beneficial because these players have been playing together for years and they know each other inside out.”

Back in March, before the Covid crisis, Arteta said of Maitland-Niles, “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.”

Saturday against Wolves is a small sample size, but if that’s anything to go by, he’s willing to fight – which can only be a good thing.

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Grymelock

A friend of mine once threatened to slap me if I ever said “let’s rock ‘n’ roll” before a night out again. Ainsley obviously has different friends.

matt stewart

Sounds like your friends are just trying to look out for you dude. Soemtimes you gotta be cruel to be kind.

Johnny 4 Hats

It’s amazing that Arteta turned up at the club and asked everyone to simply work hard.

So far that’s been too great an ask (at one stage or another) for AMN, Ozil, Guendouzi, Ceballos and Pepe.

Says so much about the club. Let’s hope this culture gets bludgeoned as savagely as Leicester do tomorrow.

Martin

Not a single one of those players is remotely lazy and I include Ozil.

Goonerink

Yeah I think it’s been a big ask for those named but not too great, that’s saying they haven’t upped their work rate, AMN and Pepe have featured and Ceballos is a key player for arteta.

Johnny 4 Hats

Oh yeah sorry, we just won. That means all our players are awesome and world class. We’ll chat after the next capitulation 👍

Steve Morpurgo

It’s not a matter of all of our players being ‘awesome’, it’s more about, do they give their ‘all’ in training and during a match. Some may give everything but are just not good enough…… In the case of Ozil (and i pick him because he is probably the standout), he has never been a player that looks like he is giving everything, he is more of a player who once he has the ball, sees things quicker and makes things happen. He is a ‘provider’, a setter-up of situations, a slide rule passer….all looks fabulous when it comes off… Read more »

Nilaroulettes

I think when we criticize football players we all imply “compared to other football players”. Of course they are all amazingly talented, athletic, hard working and successful people.

I’m a huge fan of Özil, he’s one of my favorite player. But compared to other players, he is quite unathletic and quite lazy. He actually runs a lot more than people think, but he does not put in the effort needed to win the ball back.

I don’t think that’s an offense to him to say that

Grymelock

My friends were absolutely right and I defer to their judgement. I can only apologise for my poor decision making as a younger man.

jbrusty

The sooner he realises he’s better at full/wing back than centre mid, the happier he’ll be

Berlingoon

How do you know? How often have you seen him play at central midfield? For weeks and months a lot of arsenal fans said he’s not a full back and we need someone new to come in for that position. Shortly after that he gave an interview where he basically said the same, that he’s not a full back and therefore will make mistakes when played there and that he finds the criticism a bit harsh. But he never said that he doesn’t want to play there, let alone refuses to play there. Now a lot of fans are telling… Read more »

jbrusty

He’s played various games in centre mid, and a few higher up on the wing. Mostly in cup games.

The most impressive display in centre mid was away v Man Utd, which I believe was at the end of Arsene’s reign when we lost late on 2-1. However, I do not feel I have seen enough positive displays from that position compared to full back.

No mention of Hector in the above comment.

You are literally on a blog where people post views and opinions.

Dave cee

I remember that Man U away performance, was very encouraging. Probably MOTM. Think he was dropped for the next game too, which I found very hard to understand.
It amazes me that he has nearly 100 games for us and I.m still not sure if he is good enough, he does appear a bit too lax at times, but I hope he makes it with Arsenal.

Kostas

Can I reverse the question how do you know that he will not make mistakes if he played CM?
Also does the last sentence apply to you?

mjc1892

“If the manager says to me ‘Ains you gotta go in goal this game I will put the gloves on and I am ready to rock n roll’.”
That’s the attitude we want off you Ainsley! A James Milner-esque utility player is so insanely valuable, I hope he’s able to fill a similar role for us.

Kostas

Every successful team need the utility player!
Come on you young gooners!

Cultured Determination

I like AMN. I think he can make our right wingback spot his own.
Remember… dont be like the ox… look jow much ‘CM’ game time he’s getting now.

BillyKrystal

It’s funny I watched the Liverpool/Villa game and Ox was extremely busy, but a bit “chicken with his head cut off”, and was yanked early 2nd half by Klopp. He barely features for them and I’m sure he’s wondering why he left. He won’t be getting in any time soon, I’m sure they’d buy another CM before turning to him.

Rocky07

Will the Ox be getting a meddle, has he played enough games?

btw

Depends on if he’s shown enough mettle.

Martin

Medal

Arsenalfan

Klopp says they’ll all get medaqls, even if he has to give up his medal. Back when we last one the title, you had to play at least 10 games to get a medal. That’s why Wenger made sure Keown played at least 10 that invincible season.

EZD

Ox easily gets a medal – he’s actually played a fair amount.

He’s got 25 games (including 14 starts) so far this season, despite a couple of injuries – so a fairly important squad player. You only need to play 5 PL games to get a medal.

Pretty sure he’s not regretting the move! And I wish him all the best for it – he always seemed a nice lad, and he was stagnating with us, being shunted all over the pitch in a chaotic, declining team.

Tommmy

Wondering why he’s left? I doubt it he has a PL CL Club World Cup and super cup medal in the last 12 months alone.
Take the arsenal glasses off and let’s be real

Luckylee

If memory serves me didn’t hleb go to barca won all medals available n still regret ever leaving arsenal..what does it profit of if he doesn’t play up to 10 matches a season in his preferred position

loose_cannon

I’m happy that AMN wants to get his head down and is showing a great attitude, but I can’t denigrate Ox for leaving to play in his favoured position. And given what he’s won over the last couple of years it’s probably not wise to make comparisons, AMN might get the wrong the idea…

loose_cannon

Some more context. Ox has made 38 appearances for them this season (including the super and club world cup finals), mostly at CM and missed a bit through injury. Meanwhile AMN has made 27 appearances this season and I think only one in his preferred position. There’s no comparison to be had here.

Jack

This is the attitude Guendouzi needs

PGunner

And the reason why he is currently ahead of Guendouzi in the midfield pecking order, let alone anywhere else on the park.

Arsenalfan

We could all see Guendouzi’s head getting bigger and bigger as time passed by. Even in the training videos you could see it. I love the kid, I like his shithousery, the fighting spirit, but you can’t disrespect your manager or the badge, otherwise out the door you go. I don’t think he’s mature enough for Arteta. We’ll probably sell him so we can bring in Partey. I hope we get a good fee.

The Arsenal

I think Laca and Auba being so friendly to him went to his head.

Gun4lif

The way Guendouzi behaves, isn’t it what we require in that team? I foresaw the lad as the next Arsenal captain because of his fighting spirit. Arteta may not be a man manager as we think he is. I thought the team was underwhelming the first few games after lockdown, but time will tell.

Hi-Jay

4 consecutive victories is underwhelming to you?

StockholmGooner

He put Ainsley on the left because as a right footed player it was easier for him to show Traore to the inside where he’s weaker and can’t cross to Traore.

Tommmy

Traore is quick but not that quick

allezkev

The Traore brothers

Oregoon

Only TH14 could pass to himself.

Xhaka laca

The Bird Catcher

canadrian

Big fan of “Ains”..I hope he can be moulded by Arteta into a solid #8/#6. I like his mobility and defensive awareness for those positions. He’s super athletic and technically gifted, so I think Arteta is going to try to make it work..

charvakan

I agree. AMN has some work to do, though. He’ll have to distribute the ball quickly and accurately from deep midfield, with a respectable range. I would like very much to see him tried out there sometime early next year, or in the closing stages of a game this season we’ve got a lead in.

Artetas Assistant

He likes to go on a romp, like a wrecking ball swinging furiously

COYG1001

I also agree. He’s strong, can head, has some positional awareness. It’s not just his attitude that puts him ahead of Guendouzi in my opinion. Quicker and faster as well. Can actually defend.

Gun4lif

Will he, that is the question. We have seen very little evidence to suggest that. I expected Arteta to play AIN in midfield in the FA cup.

El-bahja

Give him a new contract

ifan

M Niles should improve his attitudes especially his lazyness before when he joined attacking at front he was very slow to defend ..he has to learn frm Saka

Santori

I don’t feel he is lazy although I get what you are implying. I think his best asset is also his greatest weakness. He is relaxed which helps him in many situations but that also makes him culpable toward being over casual at times. He needs to work on that and quickly bc he is fast running out of opportunity with 4 fullbacks now and the midfield likely needing better than what he can provide beyond an Elneny utility role at this point. In that I prefer him to the Egyptian who was always over rated by too many clueless… Read more »

Arsenalfan

I love Maitland-Niles, losing him would be stupid, especially in our current financial situation.I also like the idea of playing the academy guys together, Niles is right, they know how each other play because they grew up playing alongside one another. That’s a huge advantage to have out on the pitch. Arteta’s been doing a beautiful job with them, persisting with WIllock is really starting to pay off, he’s proved a lot of people wrong.

Santori

He did well with Pepe for some reason.

We saw recently switching Saka over to right left him with two left feet (Goal not considering) and he had difficulties syncing with new boy Cedric. These things take time to develop.

Considering Pepe has been hit and miss first season, it was good to find someone he clicked with and could bring what we know is good quality but still hiding at the moment out of him.

Some players just naturally click with each other.

Goonerink

Arsenals own class of ’92

Santori

Seems like he’s in a utility role at the moment. I’m not sure I’d trust him in central midfield bc he can be too casual with passing. But he’s been at fullback for 4 seasons now. Seeing him on the right side adding physicality (against Traore) in lieu of Tierney with Kolasinac engaged to help in back 3 makes sense. Yet next season we now have Cedric competing with Bellerin on right and Tierney with kolasinac on left. One opportunity for him is if either of Kolasinac or Bellerin get poached. BUT both are better fullbacks. In midfield as mentioned… Read more »

Santori

I think this also speaks to potential predatory moves this window if we do not finish high enough to convince players that project Arteta mis worth backing.

Bellerin may be unsettled with rumours of bigger clubs circling.

We need to retain some of these assets where we may concede we will be less competitive when push comes to shove on Aubameyang say.

but we cannot guarantee we can retain all fullbacks either so AMN may have to be next best option.

Ben Similanie

The team is starting to getting into shape quite nicely, however there is still a few challenges that needs to be resolve.
We play to slowly. To many back passes to to our central defender. Our movement into space is not great and the balls should be passed more quickly to our forwards.
It seems as if our Midfielders cannot make killer passes to our strikers. They prefer to pass backwards instead of trying to take opponents on.

2highbury

Imo he is he most consistent defender in the team

2highbury

Ergh sorry

Guendouzi Oueddei

He can be an important player for Arteta if he put his head down. He can cover a lot of positions when we have injuries and can make an impact as a tactical sub, like in the game against Wolves. I really hope he features more in midfield cos I think he will do a good job. I saw him play alongside Ox in a FA cup game against Southampton. And alongside Xhaka against Man United and he played really well. All he need is consistency and run of games. But it’s clear that Arteta don’t see him there, but… Read more »

Dave cee

Arteta might not see him there, but w Guendouzi in the doghouse and Torreira just coming back from a big injury, I.d say AMN is next in line for a CM spot if Xhaka or Ceballos can’t play. Personally think he could perform a fairly similar role to Ceballos. However, now is maybe not the time for experiments, gotta keep the wins coming

Teryima Adi

Ainsley Maitland- Niles is our utility player, our own James Milner.

Barbes B. Dawodu

Midland Nile is one utility player Arsenal cannot afford to lose at present. All he need is the coach backing and we will see his best days.

NMArsenal

While he barely featured in CM, I think he can be a decent CM option given that CM position is light at the moment. Guendouzi seems to have one foot at the exit door and AMN is better him in CM IMHO. I don’t know if Torreria will stay he definitely best of the bunch. Xhaka is quite valuable and pretty much the first choice for now. Caballos can be quite good at times but he has quite average overall performance wise. Willock can be good but he also disappears when srarting. There is a internal option in AMN if… Read more »