The future of Ainsley Maitland-Niles at Arsenal looks to be under threat after he fell out of favour with boss Mikel Arteta.
The 22-year-old was left out of the squad for Saturday’s clash against West Ham United, with Sokratis, a centre-back, chosen to play ahead of him again at right-back with Hector Bellerin still not fully fit.
According to The Athletic’s James McNicholas, Arteta still has concerns over Maitland-Niles’ concentration, and it appears things have also gone sour behind the scenes.
The Athletic’s David Ornstein reveals that some disciplinary issues and the player’s preference to play in midfield may have also contributed to his lack of playing minutes of recent, and some people around Arsenal feel that he could be done for at the North London club as a result.
“People are saying but where is Ainsley Maitland-Niles who was occupying that position for a bit? I heard some suggestions a long time ago now that he had expressed a desire or preference not to be playing at right-back as he favours a central midfield position,” the Athletic journalist said on The Ornstein & Chapman Podcast.
“And Mikel Arteta isn’t receptive to players indicating where they want to play, they would play where they are told to play for the good of the team, and since then, I don’t know the exact conversation that has gone on, but he hasn’t been playing very much, and then one of the suggestions I got is that he has been late for a couple of training sessions and certainly Arteta wouldn’t like that given the disciple and behaviour and respect culture is so important to him.
“And some people around Arsenal feel that he could be done for, Ainsley Maitland-Niles at Arsenal. We don’t know for a fact, I’m just reflecting suggestions I’ve heard.”
Maitland-Niles started every of Arsenal’s first five Premier League games under Arteta, but his next and last three appearances have come as a 90th-minute time-wasting substitute, and with the club now challenging on only two fronts, his playing chances might even get slimmer.
The Gunners travel to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday to face Manchester City, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he misses out on the trip with both Sokratis and Bellerin available.
The academy graduate still has what it takes to force his way back into the first-team, but like Arteta said of recent, he “needs to put his head down, work hard and show every day in training he wants it more than anybody else and that he wants to play for the club and fight for his place.”