An Open Letter to Ainsley Maitland-Niles


We are all very aware of the Arsenal being in the market for a first choice right-back, given the rumored appetite of Héctor Bellerín for a new experience abroad and the doubts surrounding his deputies, Cédric Soares and Calum Chambers.

Mikel Arteta and Edu are reportedly looking for an athletic full-back with good defensive skills, comfortable in playing the inverted full-back when the team is in possession and is attacking from the left side.
Ideally speaking, this potential new signing should be secure enough on the ball to help progressing the play through the middle, support the right wing on the overlap when required and very quick in transition, in order to shut down any potential threat from a counterattack.

Héctor Bellerín, Cédric Soares and Calum Chambers all have bits of the qualifications required for the job but none of them has all the skills, hence the Club is looking for something new.
Although I understand Héctor Bellerín desire to experiment something new after what feel like an entire life spent at the Club, his departure would still create a massive hole and deprive the team of a regular starter, a veteran and a leader in the dressing room.

You might rate him or not but he’s been a mainstay for years, both on and off the pitch, and will be missed.


I believe that Calum Chambers did enough to deserve a new deal and would represent a decent option off the bench, while Cédric Soares should not be in Mikel Arteta’s plans and should be let go, if a decent offer comes in: the Portuguese is an experienced professional but, with limited football available next season, he would be redundant with Calum Chambers still around and a new right-back coming in.

Speaking of what, I believe that we have an excellent candidate already available but he doesn’t seem to fancy the job – which is quite disappointing.
Obviously I’m referring to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who spent the second half of the season on loan at West Brom to get regular football as a midfielder, his preferred position, only to have an indifferent string of performances.

I wish Ainsley Maitland-Niles would take the advice Sam Allardyce gave him:

“If I were him, I’d play wherever the manager picked me – and I’d never turn it down because if you are able to play in a number of positions, then you are going to get more games than if you had one position and one position only.
“Perhaps you don’t want to be tagged as a ‘utility player’ but sometimes those people are played more often than those who are stubborn and say: ‘I want to play in that position and nowhere else.”

I understand how Ainsley Maitland-Niles would like to have his own identity, but I cannot understand how he does not see the immense opportunity right in front of him. I have little doubts that, had he been a bit more open about playing full-back, he would have been Mikel Arteta’s first choice by now and probably would have put to bed any discussions about signing a new right-back.


He has the attributes to be a great interpreter of this new generation of full-backs, who do not simply run up and down the byline but are asked to tuck in, participate to the build-up, roam in the half-spaces and be the multi-dimensional outlet that many managers – including Mikel Arteta – want their full-backs to be.

On paper, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has all the ingredients to be among the best full-backs in the Premier League as he is quick, athletic, strong in one-v-one situations, comfortable in possession and has a good eye for a final ball, so I don’t understand how he would not seize the opportunity and make it his position.
I do not understand what he is hesitant about. I do not understand why he accepts the fact that people in football as starting to call him “stubborn” or “picky”.

He worked his way up the ranks and got to the first team, he is on the verge of securing a place in the starting XI like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe did before him and now he seems ready to throw everything away.
It sounds so crazy to turn down the opportunity to play for the Club you grew up with, which still is one of the most prestigious Clubs in Europe despite the recent struggles, that I really don’t know whether to be mad or admirative of such stubbornness.

Either Ainsley Maitland-Niles is one the best midfielders in the Premier League and none of his coaches ever noticed or he is throwing away his lottery winning ticket.

Dear Ainsley, don’t be stubborn. Please.

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2 Responses to An Open Letter to Ainsley Maitland-Niles

  1. Unathi Mntonintshi June 8, 2021 at 9:04 am #

    This is very sensible and excellent thoughts. I think Ainsley is making a common mistake of not being able to distinguish between passion and ability. Success is based on ability not necessarily passion especially in a competitive environment i.e. competition for places in the team and competing against opponents in the field. Ainsley has a passion for midfield but ability for a world class right back. Even ball winning skills are different in midfield compared to the right back. I saw how he closed Richarlison out, how he played and scored against Liverpool on the right. He can learn a lesson from Ox Chamberlain who also believed he was a midfielder but does not have the close control skills necessary to play in small spaces. Even Emile Smith-Rowe is not as skilful in this as Odegaard. Ainsley played Arsenal’s important games in the FA Cup run and was chosen man of the match. Pls accept the change of position and become world class! He would have made the English team if he had played right back and Arsenal would have progressed both in the Premier League and the Europa League.

    Somebodu knock sense into him. Arsenal can sell Bellerin and use the money to buy players with finesses in the midfield.

    I have another gripe about Mavropanos whom I believe is a unique defender amongst those available at Arsenal. I think only Mari is better than him even because of experience. He has pace, brave, better on one-on-ones than both Gabriel and Holding. He might not be the best ball player from the back but neither is Ruben Diaz from City but he wont the player of the season. I dont think it was because of his ball playing skills. I would find a place for Mavropanos ahead of Saliba, Holding, Chambers and Gabriel.

    • ClockEnd Italia June 11, 2021 at 1:30 pm #

      Thanks for your feedback Unathi. I’d like to see more of Dinos before commenting, surely had a good spell in Germany

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