Arsène Wenger explains that Ainsley Maitland-Niles was selected for his pace and recovery runs against Liverpool, which could put him in line for another start against Crystal Palace.
Maitland-Niles made his third Premier League start of the season against Liverpool, and performed very well.
Arsenal conceded three goals, but the midfielder – playing at left-back – handled himself impressively, especially considering he was up against the league’s top scorer, at the time.
However, the strong performance still didn’t entirely convince Arsenal fans. Summer signing Sead Kolašinac has generally played very well this season, so it’s strange to see him dropped.
“His pace is the main reason why he [Maitland-Niles] played and I think as well his recovery runs are very good, he has shown that a few times,” Wenger explained.
“He came back and I think it’s a positive game. He is 20 years old and what he showed in a game of that stature is very good. It was a big test [against Mohamed Salah], but I think successful. It was a successful performance for him.”
The Gunners needed Maitland-Niles’ pace on multiple occasions, so it was probably a good decision in the end. Arsenal might have similar problems against Crystal Palace, with players like Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend thriving on quick counter-attacks.
Their Eagles pair also take players on one-on-one, boasting more take-ons per 90 minutes than Alexis Sanchez. So perhaps Wenger’s explanation could give us a clue to his selection on Thursday night.
If the manager thinks the 20-year-old academy product is faster and recovers better, then he might be more suited to the match at Selhurst Park. Plus, there’s a more physical encounter against West Brom coming up a few days later which might benefit Kolasinac.
We’ll have to wait and see what Wenger decides.