Ainsley Maitland-Niles needs a chance in midfield, but may be needed at full back more on Sunday.
The more you watch Maitland-Niles, the more apparent it is that his future is not as a left back.
That’s not to say he’s been bad in the position. Rather, it feels like a waste for such a talented player to be playing there when he could shine elsewhere.
The 20-year-old has displayed such composure on the ball that you feel he could do an excellent job in the middle of the pitch.
Arsene Wenger envisions him playing there one day, while the fans, who remain unconvinced by Granit Xhaka, want to see him play there sooner rather than later.
The Nottingham Forest game on Sunday could provide that chance, especially with Xhaka ruled out, but Arsenal need him to play full back.
This is mainly due to a lack of cover in both full back positions.
Maitland-Niles began the season as cover for Sead Kolasinac, as Nacho Monreal was starting as a centre defender.
Even as Arsenal returned to using a back four in Kolasinac’s absence, Maitland-Niles still played left back, while Monreal remained at centre back.
Wenger has already said he no longer sees the Spaniard as a full back. “It looks to me that centre back is his best position now,” said the boss, speaking of Monreal. “He has plenty of experience on the flanks, but it’s a bit more demanding there now, physically.”
Even if he did still see him as a fullback, Monreal is still injured. The only other option Wenger has for the position is another young player – Josh Dasilva.
While the teenager has impressed for the u23s and has appeared in the Carabao Cup, he’s unlikely to start.
Wenger could play Francis Coquelin or even Mathieu Debuchy there, but neither option would be ideal.
The same problem exists on the other side of the pitch, where Hector Bellerin has little competition or cover.
It was Maitland-Niles who ended up being that cover last season in the FA Cup.
Between Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny, Wenger will feel he has adequate cover in midfield for the game.
On top of that, he’ll want to give Joe Willock another opportunity in the first team.
Willock aside, it wouldn’t be the most exciting of midfields.
However, there’s a necessity for Arsenal’s squad players to get minutes under their belts, and the Forest game will be one of the rare opportunities to do so.
Maitland-Niles will get his chance in the middle one day, but Sunday shouldn’t be that day.Click here for reuse options!
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