Arsene Wenger had very high hopes for Ainsley Maitland-Niles when he was coming through the ranks at Arsenal. The legendary Frenchman even handed him his senior debut when he was just 17 years old back in 2014.
Maitland-Niles’ best trait ever since he was a kid was his versatility. He could always play in multiple positions and he was absolutely outstanding in every one of those roles.
Wenger was a huge fan of his skills and heaped some big praise on him back in 2017. He hailed Maitland-Niles’ versatility and boldly labelled him as ‘the future’ of Arsenal football club.
He said, as per Arsenal.com: “I believe he is the future. He can play left back, right back, central midfield. Of the three positions, maybe the least natural for him is left back, but he adapts very quickly and is a good defender.
“He has that sense of one against one, he is very strong, he is very quick, he has very quick recovery runs when he comes back. He has some aspects to learn: experience and he has to work on his heading. But overall, what he has done is positive.”
Was Wenger wrong about Maitland-Niles?
After a disagreement with Mikel Arteta about his best position on the pitch, Maitland-Niles forced his way out of Arsenal on loan. He spent the second half of last season at West Brom and was given the chance to play in his preferred central midfield role.
The Englishman clearly didn’t do enough there to convince Arteta that he is a central midfielder. That has cast a big shadow over his future at the Emirates, and his recent comments will certainly not do him any favours.
In an interview with The Telegraph earlier this week, he demanded clarity about his future from Arteta and boldly claimed that he will ‘kiss Arsenal goodbye’ if talks don’t go well between him and the club in the coming weeks.
Surely, that would’ve annoyed Arteta. The Arsenal boss has been more than fair with Maitland-Niles. He may not have given him enough game time in central midfield, but the Englishman played plenty of games as a full-back.
Lack of consistency cost him his place at Arsenal and he’s now throwing a tantrum. Arteta certainly won’t be pleased with his comments and it is looking very likely that Maitland-Niles will be shown the door this summer.
Wenger was right to label the versatile Englishman as the future of Arsenal in 2017. Sadly, he has been proved wrong now and Maitland-Niles can only blame himself for being in the position that he is in at the moment.