Ainsley Maitland-Niles: Will This Move Do More Harm Than Good?

So, Transfer Deadline Day passed through with not too many fireworks from the Arsenal camp. Most of the touted departures happened except maybe for Reiss Nelson.

The most interesting departure to me wasn’t really about the player but the choice of club for Ainsley Maitland-Niles. West Bromwich Albion? I mean no disrespect to the football club and I’m sure the young England international will get the minutes he craves and has been denied at the Emirates.

I don’t know the goings on behind the scenes at the club but when hearing the teams that were interested in signing the youngster such as Leicester and Southampton they seemed a good fit. Clubs at the right end of the table and clubs that play decent football. The perfect setting in my eyes for Ainsley to bring his game along with regular starts.

Now the rumours that were bandied about were that Arsenal was not keen on lending a player to a direct rival. This is something that I personally don’t agree with. I’d have gripes maybe through years of history if one of the clubs were a Manchester United, a Liverpool or God forbid a Spurs but to deny him to hopefully better himself and return to the club a better player then Southampton and Leicester were great choices.

Yes you can call those clubs rivals but let’s put it this way, are Arsenal due to play those clubs every week until the season ends? They will play both clubs once more and through loan rules Maitland Niles won’t be lining up against the club. He is a talented player and will add to those clubs but when it comes down to the crunch Arsenal Football Club is responsible for its own destiny.

If Arsenal fails at the last hurdle it will come down to their results they achieve between now and the end of the season. The results of other clubs should not be their concern, focusing on beating the team in front of them is all that matters.

If Maitland Niles is still part of the long term future for Arsenal then his development at a higher level club should have been paramount.

Now the final decision may not have all fallen at the hands of the club and it is rumoured that Maitland Niles took particular interest in the role he would play at his future temporary club.

He came through the ranks as a midfielder however broke into first team football as an auxiliary full back. His adaptability has been a blessing and a curse for him, many still lead calls for him to be given a run of games in his favoured position in the middle of the park. However he has impressed when played as right back and at times deputising as a left back more so than any of his midfield appearances.

Do I think he play in midfield? Well the answer is yes. Do I think him being solely a midfielder he would be a starter in the Arsenal midfield I would say no. I feel there would be too many specialist midfielders that would be ahead of him in the pecking order, even Joe Willock being one of them.

It’s a tricky situation and having an opportunity to get games in midfield is a perfect opportunity to prove Mikel (and myself) wrong. This is probably why I have the biggest issue with the choice of club. West Brom with Sam Allardyce at the helm just doesn’t scream out to me great football that can bring out the best in our player. This is a club in a relegation scrap being managed by a manager whose philosophy is more likely to bypass neat intricate play in midfield in favour of lumping it up to the forwards. I have to hold my hands up that I haven’t watched West Brom games and they could well be incorporating a quality passing game but I’ve witnessed enough Allardyce games over the years to draw a conclusion that that probably isn’t the  case.

The move almost mirrors that of the loan Serge Gnabry had with West Brom under Tony Pulis. Totally different players I understand but both loaned to a team that play in a style that doesn’t compliment the strengths of the player.

That makes you question the thought process behind the move and hope Ainsley has thought this through properly with his agent. Especially when you consider the other factor that was noted for the midfielder’s desperation to get minutes: his new England career.

As we all know Maitland-Niles has been a feature in the last few England squads based on his performances for Arsenal as full back. His adaptability on either flank was something that appealed to Gareth Southgate and led to a call up. Now it is known that Ainsley is desperate to get a taste of International Football at a major tournament and pushed for a loan to ensure he gets a chance to fulfil this at the upcoming Euros.

You have to realise that he has earned his England caps so far on the basis of his full back performances and has played in that position for England. Will he be enhancing or hindering his chances for selection by now playing in Midfield? A position just like at Arsenal he would struggle to dislodge the specialist midfielders. Admittedly his England chances were being harmed just as much by staying at Arsenal and hardly playing. He’s going to be getting the minutes but not in the position he earned his England caps for.

His adaptability is still a big sell and just playing puts him in the sights of Gareth Southgate. Whether it pays off time will tell. I hope he makes a success of his loan as I am still a big fan of the player in the full back position he’s not as keen on compared to other positions. He has the athleticism and I feel he fits the mould of the type of fullback that makes Mikel Arteta’s game plan work by transitioning between full back and midfield during the game. Feels like it was the perfect fit but dislodging Hector Bellerin has been a challenge he has struggled to win.

Given the timing of his signing he could be making his debut against Spurs. West Brom has got a lot more interested spectators now for the rest of the season. I hope they can put in a good fight to beat relegation inspired by Maitland-Niles in their team. He has a few former Arsenal players to help him settle in as a relegation threatened team needs players to hit the ground running which I’m sure he can do. Can’t think of a better way to start than with three points against Spurs. Good luck Ainsley.

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I write for.


Wilshere shows two sides in West Brom draw

Well it certainly wasn’t pretty, the game ended in a hard thought draw that could have swung either way. Teams will not always allow Arsenal to play their beautiful football such as was exhibited on Tuesday night against Napoli. I am sure West Brom did their homework based on that display and set out to disrupt all the good points of the Gunners game.

You have to say their game plan worked as the fluency we have witnessed recently was substituted for a more laborious ground out performance. Many Arsenal fans will have felt disappointment when the final whistle was blown though when you put things into perspective this is exactly the kind of game the team would have lost in previous season’s after going a goal down.

For all the pretty football played there is still a resilience in the team to not give up, they kept plugging away at the West Brom defence and were eventually rewarded with an equaliser. On paper a draw at the Hawthorns isn’t ideal however the West Brom team are a team with sky high confidence at present. Their victory over Manchester United last weekend was no fluke; it was a fully deserved victory over last season’s champion’s which ultimately made for a difficult afternoon for the Gunners.

The Capital One cup tie two weeks ago held little relevance in predicting the outcome of the yesterdays game, the squads were different but for a few names. Usually when the Arsenal are at the Hawthorns there is usually the added focus of catching and passing Tottenham in the final stages of the season. Not so this time around however the prospect of returning to the top of the table was enough to motivate the players.The game itself centred on the two sides of jack Wilshere; in the first half he just could not get his game together. He seemed to spend more time on the deck than on his feet as the referee Lee Mason decided to leave his whistle in his pocket for the more physical challenges in the game. More often than not Jack was muscled off the ball and at the times when he did have the ball his passes were not finding the man or his studs were letting him down as he slipped several times.

just jack

It would be deemed quite generous to describe his first half performance as well…. rubbish; he even managed to cap it off with a booking. Clearly he is still adjusting to his role attacking on the left hand side despite being lauded for that position earlier in the week by Arsene Wenger. Add to that his reputation for being wound up the West Brom players focused on distracting him enough to put him off his game. The attention on the young England midfielder had already intensified due to the smoking story revealed at the weekend ensuring his name would be part of the headlines in some capacity.

Fortunately for Jack his performance in the second half was drastically improved, drifting into the middle at times he was able to contribute more to his team rather than being the weak link. Although far from perfect his equalising goal helped erase some of the negative demons from the previous sixty or so minutes of the game.

After the game Arsene said of Jack’s goal scoring:

“At least that is done now but he had a difficult first half where he was fouled a lot but he has shown that he has character and kept going until the end. It’s good that he was rewarded.”

A fair enough comment, it seems Wilshere has fallen out of favour slightly with some fans, not to say that they want him out of the club but more in assessment of his right of a place in the starting eleven when all players are fit. Given the acquisition of Mesut Ozil and the goal scoring exploits of Aaron Ramsey the attributes that Wilshere brings to the side have been overshadowed lately. He has the backing and the patience of his manager to get his game back on track and I’m sure it won’t be long before he is firing on all cylinders; the second half yesterday could just be the start of the return to form.

The international break looms and Arsenal sit proudly at the top of the table for the duration of it. If Liverpool fans are unhappy with that then they should consider renaming their club.

Enjoy your day people.

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