West Brom boss Sam Allardyce has had his say on Arsenal loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ best position on the pitch.
Mikel Arteta mostly used the young Englishman as a full-back. To be fair to Maitland-Niles, he did very well there, but he was always adamant that his best position was in central midfield.
The Arsenal boss, however, disagreed. He only wanted him to play out wide and even urged him to go out on loan to Southampton where Ralph Hasenhuttl was looking for a full-back.
Maitland-Niles rejected that and joined the Baggies instead because Allardyce promised to play him in central midfield. Big Sam has now come out and claimed that the Arsenal man is improving every game in the middle of their park.
Big Sam: AMN never saw full-back as his position
He said, as per Express and Star: “Ainsley’s game is starting to get better and better. I said to him the other week when he arrived – he was dropped in a full-back role, filling in, which wasn’t his position and he never saw it as his position.
“Because he’s had many years of nearly always playing in that position and not playing where he wanted to play, other clubs have only ever seen him as a full-back and I think even England played him there.
“He wants to play in midfield for us. He’s got the energy to do and he has excellent ability with both feet. There’s got to be a better finishing quality about him. Like any attacking midfielder who plays box to box, he needs to be making assists and scoring goals. That is what he needs to keep working in.
“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.”
Arsenal Insider’s view
This really is a complicated situation.
Maitland-Niles sees his future in central midfield but there are a lot of question marks over his ability to play there for a club as big as Arsenal.
He isn’t quite strong enough at the moment to play the kind of role that Thomas Partey does, while his attacking output through the middle is nowhere near good enough to convince Arteta to give him a shot there.
The only way Maitland-Niles can secure a midfield role at Arsenal is if he has an incredible end to this season at West Brom. If he doesn’t, Arteta will ask him to play as a full-back, and if he doesn’t agree, he will likely be sold.