Ashley Cole believes Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ problem is that he is too versatile for his own good.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal lies on the ground as he sets up to defend a free kick during the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on December 19, 2020 in Liverpool, England. A limited number of fans (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Peter Powell -
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 19: Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal lies on the ground as he sets up to defend a free kick during the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on December 19, 2020 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Peter Powell)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent to West Brom on loan in January after just five Premier League starts this season for Arsenal, a total he has already matched with the Baggies, playing the full 90 in them all.

West Brom have also won the same number of games as Arsenal when Ainsley Maitland-Niles started this season – one. That’s not to say that’s his fault, I just thought it was an interesting synchronicity.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Ashley Cole thinks he knows what Arsenal needed to send Maitland-Niles out on loan.

“I think the problem he had was he was too versatile for his own good,” Cole said on Sky Sports.

“There were so many players in the squad. You got an injury at right-back, left-back, central midfield, right wing, left wing-back, he could play everywhere.

“But it’s very important for young players to nail down a spot and really make that their own.

“He feels central midfield is his position, that that’s where he wants to ply his trade and Big Sam [Allardyce] has taken a chance on him and given him that opportunity.”

Maitland-Niles has a contract with Arsenal that runs until 2023.

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Ainsley Maitland-Niles in midfield

Ainsley Maitland-Niles poses with the FA Community Shield (Photo via Arsenal / Getty Images)
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Sam Allardyce, however, has stressed that Maitland-Niles will be used in his preferred midfield position while at West Brom, as the 23-0year-old aims to show that’s where his future lies.

“Ainsley’s game is starting to get better and better,’ Allardyce told the West Brom website.

“Because he’s had many years of nearly always playing [at full-back] and not playing where he wanted to play, other clubs have only ever seen him as a full-back. I think even England played him there.

“He wants to play in midfield for us. He’s got the energy to do that and he has excellent ability with both feet.

“His overall game I’m very pleased with. Hopefully he’ll just get a bit better. He is going to keep playing in midfield for us.

“I think the only way he’d ever play full-back would be on the back of injuries and suspensions.”