Arsenal could be without Ainsley Maitland-Niles on Tuesday, as his unexplained absence continues, boosting hopes of youth midfield call-ups.

Charlie Patino playing for the Arsenal u18s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
Charlie Patino playing for the Arsenal u18s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles was absent from Arsenal’s Premier League squad at the weekend, with no official reason given for why.

It was the same story on Monday, as there was no sign of the midfielder in any of the photos of training. There’s nothing confirmed yet, but it’s looking likely he won’t be starting on Tuesday night against Sunderland in the League Cup.

With Albert Sambi Lokonga also a likely absentee due to Covid-19, that opens up an opportunity for youth promotion in midfield.

Youngsters Charlie Patino and Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand have both been involved in first-team training this week, after the Arsenal academy teams began their winter break.

Oulad M’hand already made the first-team squad in the last round of the League Cup, and the suggestion at the time is that Patino would have if not for an injury.

More than just making the squad, it seems possible one or both of them could even make an appearance on Tuesday night.

Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand scores for the Arsenal u21s (Photo via David Price on Twitter)

Even if neither of them start, they’ll have a good chance of coming off the bench. There are five substitutions available in the League Cup, and Arsenal won’t want their senior Premier League starters playing the full match.

We’ll have to wait for the full story on Maitland-Niles, but his potential absence could well be a boost for a couple of young stars waiting for an opportunity.