Ainsley Maitland-Niles told Sam Allardyce he wanted to play in midfield before agreeing to his loan move to West Bromwich Albion.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles went on loan to West Bromwich Albion at the end of the winter transfer window, after finding it hard to break into Mikel Arteta’s side regularly – particularly in the Premier League.
Maitland-Niles matched his tally of five Premier League starts with Arsenal this season after just over a month with West Brom, and he remains in the team playing 90 minutes every matchday.
But perhaps more importantly than all of that, Sam Allardyce claims Maitland-Niles’ primary motivation for joining West Brom was to play in central midfield.
“I spoke to Ainsley on the fact, where do you want to play, and what is your favourite position?” Allardyce recalled. “The reason Ainsley chose West Brom is because he said: ‘I play in midfield, I want to play in midfield, I don’t want to play full-back.’
“It was a little bit surprising to me because he has played for Arsenal there a lot and England.
“I said: ‘If that is your favourite position, then I can’t 100% guarantee that is where you are going to play but certainly that is where you will start’.
“Then of course like everybody else, performances will determine whether you stay in that position or not. He was so focused on once I said you could play in that position, he chose us.”
If we’re looking at the positives, Maitland-Niles got what he wanted for the loan spell, and perhaps that will help attract prospective buyers that also hope to use him in midfield.
The biggest negative is that I just don’t believe Arsenal will play him there. We’ve seen enough managers try it out, and they all seem to decide they prefer him as a full-back, wing-back, or something similar.
If the 23-year-old continues to insist he’s a midfielder, I think he’ll end up playing there for another club.