Arsenal star reveals frustration at being played out of position – ‘I’m not a defender’

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Arsenal boss Unai Emery has been keen to make the most of the versatility in his squad since taking over from Arsene Wenger.

We have seen on a number of occasions in recent years, that Arsenal have been forced to think a little outside the box.

Under Arsene Wenger, they possessed a track record for having rotten luck with injuries and therefore had to make the most of their squad, finding alternative solutions that were sometimes unconventional.

While the injuries seem to have died down since the arrival of Emery in north London, he has also been keen on encouraging players to play in multiple positions.

Nobody knows that better than Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has made the right-back position his own since Hector Bellerin ruptured his cruciate ligament against Chelsea in January.

The Spaniard is stepping up his recovery but for now Maitland-Niles remains Emery’s go-to guy in the absence of the 24-year-old.

Maitland-Niles has had to deal with his fair share of criticism from supporters for his defending, something he finds unfair given that he is just doing a job for the team.

“I’m not a defender so I do get a lot of stick about my defending being poor, but it’s something I’m learning and have been learning for a couple of years now,” he told Sky Sports.

“It’s not going to come overnight. If I was a defender as a kid, and my defending was poor, I would understand where the criticism is coming from, but I’m trying my best for the team and for the manager.

“It’s not where I would choose to put myself in the team, as I’m an attacking player by trade. That’s all I can try to bring to the team.

“I’m still learning the defensive side, so when players are running at me, and they’re throwing skills at me, I’m still learning how to deal with that.”

Once Bellerin returns to action, 22-year-old Maitland-Niles is keen to show Emery what he is capable of in midfield or out wide, which is where he played during his youth career.

”I’m a midfielder by trade, either central or on the wing,” he added.

“It’s always nice to have one main position where you play, and everyone else gets to play in their main position, so hopefully it’s just a matter of time before I can do that too.”

Maitland-Niles has played every minute of all five of the Gunners’ Premier League matches so far and provided an assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 2-2 draw at Watford.

The makeshift full-back also teed up the forward for the winner at Newcastle on the opening day of the season.

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