Ainsley Maitland-Niles ……. mid-field hero in the making?

I managed to see the Sheffield game and the City one, but didn’t see the Brighton game. I look at the team and currently feel contrasting emotions. It still feels like something is missing but at the same time I feel we don’t look far away either. Maybe a couple of vital cogs in the wheel still need to be addressed.

My over-riding feeling still seems to be that we lack dominance in central midfield. They are the shield to the back 4 and the link to supplying the attack. They are vital in the recovery of possession and in retaining possession and making dangerous use of it when we have it. In other words, dominating the central midfield

Both the use of the ball when we have it and the recovery of it when we don’t, seem to be a tad under par, but the latter still feels like the most deficient. The lack of dominance in midfield still seems to be our long running Achilles heel. We have had many different decent central midfielders recently but seem to have gone a long while without finding the right combinations with these midfielders. It never seems balanced

I noted with interest that the most damning stat from the Brighton game was how our central midfielders compared to theirs in successful tackles and ball recovery. Our stats were very low compared to theirs. It was suggestive of us losing the midfield battle and maybe, once again, the combination wasn’t complimentary. I think Torreira is the current key player that would make a difference and he seems to make any of the other central midfielders play better alongside him in a way that the others can’t do for each other.

I have often wondered whether we lack the pace and athleticism in too many of our central midfielders. This is perhaps why we need a player like Partey so desperately, but I also wonder (Torreira aside) if we have another solution right under our noses. This time I am not talking about Luiz because it seems he is not destined to be used in this role but I am thinking along the lines of a player that has more pace and athleticism than our other current incumbents.

A brief foray into the overall defensive stats of all our central midfielders vs Ainsley Maitland-Niles sees him coming out near the top in most defensive areas including tackles, tackle success rate, interceptions, recoveries, and duels won. He has strong stats in all of those defensive areas whereas the others (Ceballos, Douzi, Xhaka, Willock) seem to have decent stats in some defensive areas but are weaker in others. In other words he looks to be a more rounded defensive player than those others and his stats sit favourably alongside Torreira and partey himself.

I know he has played in a different position recently, so it is hard to fully compare stats with other central midfielders, but I wonder if his stats might even improve further if he was in the thick of the midfield battle. He has more pace and athleticism than the others so is it time to give him a run of games as a deeper lying midfielder whose primary job is in ball recovery but also with the ability to bring it forwards from deeper areas?

GoonerB

35 Responses to Ainsley Maitland-Niles ……. mid-field hero in the making?

  1. Thank you GoonerB for the post.

    I’ve always thought that AMN had a good mean look about him but I appreciate that more is needed 😉

  2. Aaron says:

    GoonerB,
    A post about a hole we have had for ages.

    Like AMN, but he is not the answer, his passing is not technical enough, close control in 1 v 1 situations means he will push the ball past his man and try to run past him, only for the ball to be swallowed up by the opposition leading to a counter.

    He also just does not have the gas tank to be that guy. Speed yes, but not constant running all the time with bursts of speed, not that Santi had that either, but he had all the other attributes, vision, technique, positioning and anticipating where to go, and movement of the ball. (think Kante)

    He had his chance at right back and just blew it off, mind blowing as that spot was/is for the taking.

    just my lousy opinion.

  3. RC78 says:

    I would love for AMN to be that player but every time he had a run in the team, he did not fail to…disappoint. He clearly is a talented player with the right engine to play in midfield but it seems he is not growing in terms of defensive or attacking awareness and he is too often caught defensively too so for me, he should be sold and we should definitely purchase a player like Partey or Partey himself.

    I have the same feeling about Bellerin but I think he will stay and be given another shot. However, I would love for us to get Willian as I think he d be an amazing wing back and he is available for free

    Thanks for the post

  4. Kago Berlin Moshoke says:

    AMN is a ver good player. I think Arteta should give him more minutes. He should play him in the CM position now thatwe have Cedric in the RB position together with the not convincing Bellerin. He should start playing him regularly

  5. LBG says:

    Well hello GoonerB! How the devil are you?
    Was one who pushed hard A M’N’s right to a chance in centre midfield which he had always said was his position.
    Dont know if the playing of him at fullback( both sides) and right sided “wide” man has corrupted him, or as I tend to agree with RC, he is a flatterer to deceive!
    Two things irk most. The tendency to dive in on occasions ( particularly if the ball has just got away), with consequent bookings and, is there another player “more laid back”. No emotion, joy or despair…..”c’est la vie”…..I’ve made it now so “dont worry, be happy”. In other words, in my mind needs a (Keown or Adams) bomb up his derriere!!!
    Still superior to Xhaka though!!

  6. LB says:

    Is Arteta going to try and make AMN happen?

    That’s to say: does Arteta rate him highly enough to really want him to be part of his future plans.

    To give a bit of clarity as to what I am trying to explain, I would say that Saka is clearly part of Arteta’s plans, hence the consistency in his name being pretty much first on the team sheet.

    The glut of games could really do AMN a favour; Arteta has to play him and this is even more the case with Guenduzi on the naughty step. If Arteta needs to be convinced, the next few games could give AMN the chance to just that.

    Have you ever seen AMN take a penalty, “bet big” that he will score; he is coolness personified.

  7. Mikel A says:

    Ainsley is a very talented player. He is bright, calm and yet explosive, good passer and plays with his head up. Arteta will help him to reach his incredible potential, eventually this will be in the centre of midfield.

  8. RC78 says:

    Well I hope he is given a fair shot at the position…unlike Oxlade who has joined Liverpool and played in his favoured midfield position.

    Since leaving us, Oxlade won the EPL, Champions League, Fifa Super Cup and Football Club World Cup…Not bad. I was really miffed when he left. I could not believe that we did not keep him nor played him in the midfield more.

    Anyways…I believe that AMN has the potential and the engine to be a solid midfielder for us but his performances (even in the midfield) have let him and us down many time. If there was one player, I would be ready to extend his contract and loan him out for a year – he would be the one as long as he played in the EPL and in a midfield position. He still has so much growth to do.

  9. RA says:

    Hi GoonerB, good to see you back in action! 😁

    As usual, with all your Posts you have argued your case carefully, analytically and reasonably.

    If we could turn the clock back a year or two, I would have bet good money (not that I am into gambling), if asked, that you would still have the same views about AMN in 2020, that you held then.

    Your Post shows you have not changed your opinion, so I would have won that hypothetical bet. 😜

    I would love to be able to agree with you, but, unfortunately, I have not changed my mind over time, about AMN either, albeit with a very different view.

    My assessment is that he is not a poor player, he is just not a particularly good player either, and makes little impact when he plays, and is seemingly likely to make a ricket in each game.

    To me, it is an example of how, as fans, during the last 15 years or so, we have learned to rationalise and accept the attributes of players to fit the level of football and achievements we have become accustomed to.

    To some, we have a great squad. So great we never look likely to get within touching distance of winning a major trophy, and instead look on and wonder how Sheffield United, Leicester, Spuds, Wolves glide past us and join the provisional top four of Pool, Man City, Chelsea and the revitalised Manure, leaving us striving to stay in 8th or 9th.

    None of this is AMN’s fault — of course not. But he, like many others, is not good enough for a team aspiring to get back to the fast receding days when we were a team used to being in the top 2 or 3 clubs in the Premiership.

    AMN, Bellerin, Xhaka and Mustafi all have fans who see something acceptable in their abilities, tho’ many others do not. In my opinion, none of them would get into any of the current top 6 clubs — and that says it all, from my perspective.

    Getting back to the point — AMN is not a poor player, as I said above, but someone who can take Arsenal back to the top of the league? Never.

    And that applies to many others in the squad, including the other three I mentioned above.

    There is a saying, ‘you need to hit rock bottom before you can start to rise’ – I have been waiting for Kroenke to let us hit rock bottom for a long time, but our best players apparently want to leave, while we are slated to buy so-so players to replace them, so we are not at rock bottom yet.

    My mood has not been helped by watching a short clip on Sky TV showing Henry in his pomp, surrounded in the team by other class players, and scoring superb goals and being universally acknowledged as a top top player — those days are long gone — now we have what we have — and it is heartbreaking.

  10. RA says:

    Well that is good news to help spirits — Saka has signed a long-term contract to stay at Arsenal.

    Hopefully Arsenal will start to keep some more of there promising youngsters rather than letting them go on a ‘free’.

  11. fred1266 says:

    Arsenal issued a strong response to Saint-Etienne after the French club criticised them over negoations concerning William Saliba ahead of the Coupe de France final.

    Saliba signed for Arsenal in a reported £25million deal last year before being loaned back to Les Verts for the 2019-20 campaign.

    Although Ligue 1 was ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Coupe de France final is to go ahead on July 24.

    Saint-Etienne will face Paris Saint-Germain in that contest and had hoped Saliba, 19, would be available for it, while Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta also expressed a desire for the France Under-20 international to have that opportunity.

    But Saint-Etienne confirmed on Tuesday they were unable to reach an agreement with the Gunners, who they claimed tried to impose “absolutely unacceptable sporting and financial conditions” on any extension.

    Arsenal insist they were willing for Saliba to extend his stay, but they wanted him to be on a specific training schedule and to not lose out financially.

    “Throughout our discussions with Saint-Etienne, our aim has been to protect the welfare of William Saliba as well as the interests of Arsenal Football Club, while honouring the terms of the loan,” a statement read.

    “Despite the loan ending on June 30, we were willing to find a way for William to play in the [French] cup final on July 24, despite having no contractual obligation to do so.

    “As William is returning from injury, we asked that Saint-Etienne follow a clear training plan with William in close collaboration with us, to ensure he is fully fit for the start of next season.

    “To our surprise we were unable to reach agreement to this plan which was proposed by our medical experts, and we are simply not prepared to risk the welfare of an Arsenal player.

    “While it was not our primary concern, and ultimately not relevant as our training plan was not accepted, we also expected not to be financially disadvantaged by extending the loan. This was also not acceptable to Saint-Etienne.

    “We know this is a disappointment for William, but he understands we are working to protect his long-term interests and those of Arsenal.”

  12. LB says:

    Saka signs the ting, good news, pressure off the club, now he can be rested. lol

  13. LBG says:

    RC
    Stretching it a bit regarding The Ox. Look at his stats. No improvement from his days with us. Of course he had serious injury….bit like his time for us. It’s like saying Ramsey will be winning pot loads as he is with Juve.
    Liked both players, and both did good things for us but….

  14. LBG says:

    RA
    Having now read you comment carefully, agree totally with you assessment of some of the players currently in the squad, and I put The Ox, Ramsey, Hleb, Song, Nasri by varying degrees in the same “league”.
    True, top class has been missing for some time, and it is only that quality that could compete regularly with Chelski, Man Shitty and Manure….and even Liverpool have been required to pay through the nose with their “backbone”.

  15. Sue says:

    Saka signed da ting!! Happy bloody days!

  16. fred1266 says:

    Get in great news

  17. LB says:

    Good read RA

    Very true to say “We have what we have” but is it really heart breaking? I can’t help but think (pray) that these things go round in circles.

  18. fred1266 says:

    Do you all like that we playing 343?

  19. fatgingergooner says:

    Would be nice to kill a team. We never seem to be in comfortable positions anymore. Should be 3-0 up here.

  20. fatgingergooner says:

    Shame we didn’t have the likes of Saka, Tierney and Ceballos crossing the ball when Giroud was here. He would’ve scored another 50 goals!!!

    Tierney’s crosses are a joy.

  21. fatgingergooner says:

    Regardless of formation, you can really see what Arteta is wanting to do in terms of left foot/right foot balance. It gives us so many more options with a left footed trio at LCB, LCM, LWB and right footed trio at RCB, RCM, RWB. If you then get Auba coming in off the left and Pepe on the right it creates huge spaces for the wing backs and they can cross on the run rather than cutting back all the time.

  22. LB says:

    Hmmm, that makes a lot of sense Slim.

  23. They must like playing at the Emirates after all …… although it must be nice to play at your home ground.

  24. Oooooh goodness me, Soares, great strike

  25. fatgingergooner says:

    Good thing about playing so often is that you can go from 2 defeats on the trot to 3 wins on the trot very quickly! Some tough games coming up though so let’s hope we don’t go on a poor run now…

  26. Rasp says:

    Very encouraging performance. The players seem to be very happy with one another … harmony in the squad can’t be undervalued. I think that is helped by having more subs … is that something that should be adopted permanently?

  27. Sue says:

    Saka signs and a 4-0 win… what a day!!!
    Oooh to be….

  28. RockyLives says:

    Well that’s the first game I’ve seen us win since lockdown started.

    Very decent outing. Ceballos was outstanding (first half particularly).

    Tierney was excellent too and good outings from several others (Auba obviously and Xhaka to name but two).

  29. LB says:

    Peaches, do you need a few words for tomorrow?

  30. LB says:

    Well, there are some in drafts, just in case.

  31. Thank you LB, look forward to reading them.

    And West Ham score again!!! 3-2 can they hold on this time.

  32. LBG says:

    Smith-Rowe stars for Huddersfield in No 10 position.
    Douzi closer to exit. Get Partey. Get Mari, Mavrapanos and Martinelli back. Ease Saliba into a back three as General. Things are looking up, Gooners!!

  33. LBG says:

    “I’ve signed da ting” “Its Arsenal, come on man, its Arsenal”.

  34. Morning Gooners

    We have a New Post ………….

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