Ainsley Maitland-Niles

I have to admit that Ainsley Maitland-Niles is my favorite young player on this Arsenal team. It’s a crowded field to choose from. Arsenal have given time to a lot of talented players, like “The Jeff”, Reiss Nelson, Gedion Zelalem, and Eddie Nketiah over the last 12 months but I can’t help choose AMN as my favorite because I have a soft spot for defenders.

More than just a traditional defender, Maitland-Niles has wonderful touch, he seems to be able to control any pass sent his way, and he’s also fast as a comet – I’ve seen him track down speedy forwards with a 15 yard lead on him. I’m sure it’s a controversial choice: he’s not quite the silky smooth midfield wriggler that The Jeff or Reiss Nelson are and he’s not a splashy goal scorer like Nketiah. He’s just a talented kid who works hard and does what the manager asks of him.

Ainsley wants to be a central midfielder but Wenger has only played him there briefly. Most of the time he’s been relegated to the right back or even the left back positions. Playing left back as a right footed player is alone enough to make me like a player. That Wenger has confidence in him to play him at left back, with the profligate ball waster Alexis in front of him, is a huge sign that Wenger has the highest confidence in this young man, going so far as to call him “the future”.

“I believe he is the future. He can play left back, right back, central midfield. Of the three positions, maybe the least natural for him is left back, but he adapts very quickly and is a good defender. He has that sense of one against one, he is very strong, he is very quick, he has very quick recovery runs when he comes back. He has some aspects to learn: experience and he has to work on his heading. But overall, what he has done in the last three days is positive.”

Meanwhile, what happened to the Jeff? An ankle injury at the end of last season has kept him sidelined and he has yet to feature for Arsenal this season. And Zelalem suffered a knee injury this summer and has also been out. Both players should start getting playing time again soon.

Today, Arsenal play West Ham in the taurine cup. Stats are all out the window for these types of games because I never know who’s going to play. I’m hoping to see Maitland-Niles given a chance in the central midfield role but judging by Arsene Wenger’s latest comments he’s probably never going to get that chance and will instead be asked to play right back, or even left back again.

Here’s hoping he and the rest of the youngsters have a great game.


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