Sam Allardyce says central midfield is the only position Ainsley Maitland-Niles really wants to play, despite claims this week to the contrary.
Speaking on Sky Sports amid the deadline-day drama of Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ eventual failed move from Arsenal to Everton, Sam Allardyce discussed the old question about the 24-year-old’s best position.
Allardyce obviously had Maitland-Niles on loan during the second half of last season, at West Brom. Maitland-Niles has since returned to make a couple of appearances for Arsenal from the bench, and you can put money on any of his future matches with the sports betting at GG.BET.
According to the former Baggies boss, the Arsenal man only really wants to play in midfield.
“The problem with Ainsley is his position,” Allardyce said. “His only position that he wants to play is centre midfield, and he’s always maintained that throughout his career, he tells me.
“The reason he came to West Brom – which he forced through – Edu and Mikel Arteta didn’t want him to come, was because I spoke to him and said ‘you will play in midfield…as long as you play well’.”
David Ornstein reported on deadline day that contrary to those claims, Maitland-Niles has reportedly stated from the start of this season that he’d like to play solely as a full-back. He’s never asked to start in midfield during the current campaign.
That isn’t necessarily a contradiction. Rather, it suggests the player has changed his mind. After a relatively uninspiring loan to West Brom and a struggle to break into the Arsenal side in midfield, perhaps the right-back position is starting to look more promising for him.
Maitland-Niles met with Mikel Arteta on Tuesday to try and clear the air, after expressing his frustration at his lack of a transfer with an Instagram post. The Arsenal manager reportedly assured him he’s part of their plans for the coming season, so he ended up staying.
It will certainly be interesting to see where he fits in, though. With Arsenal signing Takehiro Tomiyasu to replace the outgoing Hector Bellerin on deadline day, there’s still just as much competition in the position as there was before.
In addition to Tomiyasu, Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares both remain at the club, so Maitland-Niles has three competitors if he wants to play at right-back.
The story isn’t that much different in midfield, with Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, Albert Sambi Lokonga, and Mohamed Elneny all fighting for two positions, and that’s if Martin Odegaard doesn’t drop back alongside one of them as well.
So you can see why Maitland-Niles was concerned, and we’ll have to wait and find out what Arteta’s plan is to get the England international involved more often.