Ainsley Maitland-Niles – where will he fit into Emery’s team?

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Con) is back in full training and in contention for the Leicester game on Monday. Perhaps Monday will come too early for the lad but away to Sporting a few days later could see him return. The question I was asking myself is, ‘what will Unai see as his strengths and eventual starting position?’. Let’s take a look.

Bottom right

Ainsley recently turned 21 and has been with the Club since he was 6 years old, another Mr Arsenal! He made Champions League and Prem debuts in late 2014. The following season he spent on loan at Ipswich, making 32 appearances and scoring 2 goals. Mick McCarthy was initially full of praise but used him less as the loan period drew to a close. (Update: It’s rumoured McCarthy received an X-rated voicemail from Ainsley’s Mum about some kit launch or something which left the poor lad out in the cold, selection-wise – she’s a right box of tricks…..)

Returning to Arsenal, in September 2016 he featured at right back at the City Ground in the EFL cup and we cruised to a 4-0 victory (a game I was lucky enough to be at). His next start the following January was in an FA Cup 4th round match at Southampton where he played in central midfield (we won 5-0 and, again, I was there for another belting away trip 🙂 ).

Here he is, assisting the assister at St Mary’s ………..

The days when the thing Ainsley was most famous for was an incident involving his Mum allegedly lamping Dick Law at the Arsenal training ground are long gone.  Arsene’s final season saw him establish himself as a versatile member of the first team squad, clocking up 15 Prem and 9 Europa League appearances, amongst others.

Wiki describes Maitland-Niles as a midfielder, winger and right full back but he’s also been used at left back when the need has arisen.  At just under 5’10” and a shade over 11 stone, he is still developing the strength required to play in the rough and tumble of the English top flight. Having started Arsenal’s first match of this season against Abu Dhabi FC in the left back position, he broke his left fibula when that fat, ex-spud Kyle Walker sat on him.

Photo by James Baylis – AMA/Getty Images

So, what position does he play? His blistering pace contributed to him being used as a winger in his early career and has also proved useful in his coverage of the flanks when playing at full back. He is good in the tackle, reads the game well and his great engine would appear to make him perfect wingfender material. However, Ainsley’s stated preferred position is midfield and you can easily see how his manoeuvrability and comfortable ease in possession could make him perfect in the centre.

More importantly, what position does Unai Emery think he’s best suited to?

One thing’s for sure, he’ll be clear about what is expected of him when he does get a game. It should be really exciting finding out how Unai gets the best out of him.



31 Responses to Ainsley Maitland-Niles – where will he fit into Emery’s team?

  1. mickydidit89 says:

    Hugely exciting prospect is M-N, and as you say Chas, fascinating to see how and where he develops under Unai.

    Just to chuck some topical perspective into the mix, I reckon he’d have a fairly realistic go of being able to do whatever Ramsey can do. Factor in he’s younger, cheaper and one of us, I can see why there’s no urgency in giving silly money to the welshman

    I like the way the club are going. Some superb summer signings with mix of ages/experience, then see exciting young prospects emerging in players like M-N and things look bright

    Position for M-N? I’d go for joining Ouzi on the other side of Torreira

  2. RC78 says:

    A former Arsenal player, know an Arsenal legend, who has been appointed as Monaco Head Coach said of AMN that he is incredible in terms of one-on-one when it comes to dribbling his opponent. I agree with him and that is why I think he should be played as Midfield for sure and at times even as a winger. AMN is actually being undermined by his engine – he can do both the attacking and the defensive work so he has been played at the back as well but really, his forte is moving forward. I think that with a bit of physical and tactical growth and discipline, he will become a great asset for our team. Technically, he is already good.

    In the medium and long run, we may have AMN, LT, Guendouzi indeed as our starting midfield 🙂 Exciting news if they build on the early promising signs.

    I rate AMN much highter than Iwobi and given a choice, I would even play AMN further up the pitch rather than Iwobi

  3. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All

    Calling in from Marseilles

    Given Nacho’s age and The Wardrobes preferred left midfield post, I see AMN as our next LB.

    Thank you to all who have written such fine posts during the interminable Interlull

  4. LB says:

    Good read, thanks

    I don’t think there is anything more for me to add between you, Micky and RC it’s all been covered and covered well.

    “Hugely exciting prospect is M-N, and as you say Chas, fascinating to see how and where he develops under Unai.”

    Yep, that’s about it.

    “AMN is actually being undermined by his engine”

    This is a clever observation.

    M-N (Con) is naturally right footed so I am not sure that LB would end up being his most likely position, although, the fact that he has played there so well in the past is testament to his ability.

    I know Torriera is flavour of the month right now but I think M-N (Con) could make that position his own at some point.

    The guy is so talented he might even be able to play further forward and challenge Xhaka or the position Ramsey plays.

    In my dreams I imagine him as the next Pirlo

    Can someone remind me what happened between the mum and Laws and also I remember that she got the hump with someone at Ipswich for not playing him or something does this ring a bell?

  5. Maxwell says:

    Good read – thank you for easing the pain of the interlull!

    I think the question links well with the previous piece re. Ramsey, and with a depressing thought that’s been gnawing at my soul these past couple of weeks.

    Firstly, I like Ramsey, but I’ve never thought of him as indispensable. He does some great things, but he also does some crass things – most frequently attempting to pass through an opponent’s midriff. He’s a player – I thought Walcott was the same – who is at his best when he doesn’t have time to think. Let him react instinctively and he can be devastating (viz. Fulham). He’s also not the quickest, which makes him suspect in Unai’s vision.

    Which brings me to the painful part. Mesut has been my favourite Arsenal player since Dennis. Watching him has filled me with awe and joy. But watching the Fulham game, I couldn’t help concluding that his time may have passed. The pace and brio with which the team played meant that he wasn’t missed for a second. At best I see him as a top substitute to come on after an hour and control things against tired legs.

    Whereas, AM-N has to be given a role. I normally leave lists of players to RC78, but my preferred midfield would have Xhaka Torreira and Maitland-Niles, with Iwobi Auba and Laca up top, or Mkhitaryan instead of Iwobi.

    I personally wouldn’t shoe-horn him into left-back, unless that was absolutely the only way to get him on the pitch.

  6. chas says:

    Here’s the Ipswich incident, LB.
    I saw it in passing yesterday but didn’t investigate
    (perhaps should have 🙂 ).

    She was also in the news trying to shame him into buying her a flat with stories about her sleeping in a shipping container, but I’m not going to broadcast them.

  7. LB says:

    That’s hilarious, I now vaguely remember it but didn’t take that much notice at the time which was probably due to not realising how good he was – I just absorbed every single word lol

  8. LB says:

    I enjoyed reading Maxwell’s comment.

    I ended up laughing at myself when I reflected on my thought process.

    “Mesut has been my favourite Arsenal player since Dennis. Watching him has filled me with awe and joy.”

    Thought process: yeah, yeah absolutely, couldn’t agree more, you are preaching to the choir here.

    “But watching the Fulham game, I couldn’t help concluding that his time may have passed.”

    Thought process: what, what, what is going on, there has been a mal function.

    “The pace and brio with which the team played meant that he wasn’t missed for a second.”

    Thought process: you must have had a bad stream, the right answer is that we would have won 8-1 if Ozil had been playing.

    “At best I see him as a top substitute.”

    Thought process: no, no, no Mesut doesn’t do substitutions.

    Confessions of an avid (sad) Ozil fan 🙂

  9. LBG says:

    Cheers Chas
    LB you not sad, and avidity is what makes this blog the best.
    The future is BRIGHT, the future is YOUTHFUL, the future is SKILFUL, the future is TERRIER, with AM-N and OUZI either side, and forward of our “five foot five” diamond.

    8-1 at least!

  10. LB says:


    Beats yesterday.

  11. LBG says:

    What a pleasure to see Captain Kos out on the training field, together with Ainsley. Take it easy lads and be truly strong and firing on all cylinders when you next play.

  12. mickydidit89 says:


    I’m afraid you haven’t been paying attention 🙂

    Thing is, we’ve been over this. You came so close to a whopper of a cigar when you said that Mesut was “a top substitute to come on after an hour and control things against tired legs”

    Where you were off target was to suggest that he was coming on to control things.

    Our plan is that Torreira Granit Iwobi Danny Mkhi and Laca wear the oppo. down for those first 60 mins, then the demolition team, Mesut and Auba, come on not to control things but rather to terrorize the weary defenders.

    The likes of Fulham, or a Leicester, are thinking they’re doing so well to be still in the game, then, while the energy is sapped, they see two worldies limbering up all smiles and fresh

    Now you can relax, and watch your Mesut as you so rightly should 🙂

  13. LB says:

    That’s Maxwell put in his place then lol

  14. Maxwell says:

    Didit, that’ll do for me!

  15. mickydidit89 says:

    We love Maxwell, LB, he just needed a little help and advice 🙂

  16. LB says:

    Good to see Macwell can take a joke.

  17. LB says:

    Auto correct grrrrr

  18. mickydidit89 says:

    T-3 days. Getting there

  19. mickydidit89 says:

    do we need a post for today?

  20. chas says:

    There is one from GN5 but please don’t let that stop you doing one which can be used tomorrow. 🙂

  21. chas says:

  22. chas says:

  23. chas says:

  24. mickydidit89 says:

    “having lied on your cv” ha ha ha 🙂

    Ok cool. I was hoping GN5 would have done one of his pre-pre-match reviews of the opposition, but guessed that would be Sunday given the Monday game….. or have I, surprise surprise, got the day wrong? 🙂

    Anyway, delighted to be off the hook, although I send my thought in so you can have another day off (as LB put it) at some point

  25. chas says:

    Cheers, chief.

    Amazingly you have the day of our next game bang on – having a fortnight to suss it out probably helped.

  26. chas says:


  27. mickydidit89 says:

    post sent anyhow

  28. mickydidit89 says:


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