Former England and West Bromwich Albion boss Sam Allardyce has claimed that reports about Arsenal star Ainsley Maitland-Niles agreeing to play at right-back this season are ‘wrong’.
The versatile Englishman was desperate to leave Arsenal. He had an offer from Everton which he was willing to accept, but the Gunners rejected that proposal, which led to Maitland-Niles throwing a tantrum on Instagram.
David Ornstein of The Athletic revealed that Arteta and Maitland-Niles held clear the air talks yesterday and the Arsenal boss convinced him to stay. The journalist also revealed that the Englishman has even told the club that he is willing to play at right-back now, but Allardyce doesn’t believe that for one second.
Allardyce: Rumours about Maitland-Niles are wrong
The 66-year-old, who worked with Maitland-Niles last season, said on Sky Sports yesterday: “The problem with Ainsley is his position. His position, as everybody has alluded to, is wrong. His position, and the only position that he wants to play, the number one position is central midfield. And he has always maintained that throughout his career, he tells me.
“He filled in at full-back when asked to, and obviously played very well because he played at full-back for England. But, his favourite position is central midfield, which he rarely got at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger or anybody else.
“The reason why he came to West Brom, which he forced through, by the way, Edu and Arteta didn’t want him to come. It was the fact that I told him, ‘you will play in midfield in every game you feature in as long as you play well’. I think he deserves an opportunity to play there (in midfield for Arsenal).”
The Insider’s View:
It is no secret that Maitland-Niles’ preferred position is central midfield. He has told that to Arteta privately and has made it clear to everyone else in public. However, his Instagram post suggests that he just wants to play now, irrespective of the position.
Keeping that in mind, Ornstein’s update could have some substance in it. Maitland-Niles must’ve told Arteta that he’s ready to play wherever he wants him to play. That could be why the Arsenal boss kept him at the club despite Takehiro Tomiyasu’s arrival yesterday.
It will be interesting to see where Maitland-Niles plays this season if he’s given a chance. There’s a ton of competition in almost every position, but if he gets the nod and impresses, he could make one role his own for the remainder of this campaign.