Ainsley Maitland-Niles as an ‘Inverted Fullback’ – An Instant Arteta influence


Arteta guiding AMN


One of the stand out features of yesterday’s match, Arsenal first under their new coach, was the role of Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Arteta will continue with the young Englishman, when Hector Bellerin is fit but the way he was deployed was interesting and worthy of comment.

You may see the phrase ‘inverted fullback’ banded around and largely this has been seen as the deployment of a fullback, in a defensive capacity, to combat teams using inverted wingers, who will cut in from the flank onto their stronger foot and to get more involved in build-up play.

However, at Man City, Guardiola and Arteta used inverted full backs in a more proactive sense and I feel this is what we saw with Maitland-Niles yesterday. Pep utilised Lahm in this way at Bayern and certainly we have seen it at City with Fabien Delph and others, where the fullback will not stay wide but often instead, carry the ball into more central areas when moving forwards.


Arteta coached Delph in the role


Using AMN in this way brought a lot to the Arsenal performance at The Vitality. It assisted Arteta’s team in largely countering the threat of Josh King, who whilst playing wide left was always likely to want to cut in on to his favoured right foot. An inverted fullback playing the position well should have the ability to show an inverted winger down the line lessening the threat they pose, and Ainsley was able to do this on occasions

However, the more obvious advantage for Arsenal, playing a 4231, was the extra thrust and platform it gave the team going forwards. AMN coming in field to join Torreira and Xhaka gave The Gunners, more options on the ball. the team is playing with a two-man midfield. It was Emery’s cautious nature and lack of confidence perhaps in his players, that often saw him playing three central midfielders, which lessened our creativity. Having an inverted full back joining the midfield as we have so often seen at Man City, can bolster the midfield in possession, whist still allowing the coach to field four attacking players, including a 10.


Intelligent performance


Ainsley Maitland- Niles delivered an intelligent performance in this altered role, given how little time he has had with Arteta, but it gives his new coach an excellent option, when playing lesser teams and those that utilise inverted wingers. However, against the strong teams and those employing more traditional wide-men on the strong foot, looking to beat the fullback on the outside and whip a cross in, I am sure Bellerin would be first choice.

Playing a fullback this was can also reduce width in attack if the winger or wide striker ahead is not staying wide, which Nelson and then Pepe, largely did, as the inverted fullback is less likely to offer an overlap.

Nice to have options though…..

Go Mikel!

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2 Responses to Ainsley Maitland-Niles as an ‘Inverted Fullback’ – An Instant Arteta influence

  1. foreverinourshadows December 27, 2019 at 4:14 pm #

    Niles just isn’t good enough, can’t concentrate for the full match, needless free kicks he gives away, put him out on loan, and Bellerin isn’t that much cop either, can’t cross, can’t tackle and has lost confidence after his injury, never rated him before and nothing has changed, we need strong, robust and quick thinking defenders and the two mentioned do not cut it. We have had a problem with our defence for at least fifteen years, Wenger took over the best defence in England and failed, the only decent defender we had was a free transfer, but the dross we signed over the years were awful.

  2. Victor Thompson December 30, 2019 at 11:12 am #

    Dave. I am one of those who was not aware of the discription “inverted full back” Thank you for expaining it.

    I wondered why Chelsea always had a man on the left wing who was always receptive to a pass directed into the acreage of space which he had to himself throughout the match. I am afraid that either the duties of an inverted full back were not fully explained to Maitland Niles or he was acting in regimental performance of those duties.

    Many of the damaging crosses into our box were originated from the vacant space left behind MN and especially in the second half when the counter attacks by Chelsea found a ready made target to exploit. The success of their counter-attacks gave them confidence which they lacked in the first half and was instrumental in the final 10 minutes when we should have had the game wrapped up.

    Its a pity because other than that mistake in tactics we were very good in the first half considering that the scorer of their first goal should not have been on the pitch, Torreira was sent off for pulling the jersey of one of their players and 10 minutes later their scorer did exactly the same and was unpunished.

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