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Arsenal loans Ainsley Maitland Niles to West Brom: shrewd business or tragic misstep? You decide…

 

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.

https://twitter.com/FabrizioRomano/status/1356250757905973250

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.

AMN

So much promise at the start of the season

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 can 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.

allardyce-WBA

Big Sam not exactly a proponent of tiki-taka …

That makes you question the thought process behind the move and I hope Ainsley has talked 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 and performances 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.

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