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Mikel Arteta repeated his suggestion that Ainsley Maitland-Niles isn’t a natural full-back on Friday, after completing the signing of Cedric Soares.
When Arsenal and Mikel Arteta made their move for Southampton full-back Cedric Soares towards the end of the January transfer window, some fans didn’t understand what that meant for Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The academy graduate was the squad’s backup right-back recently in Héctor Bellerín’s absence, a role now presumably going to Soares.
Mikel Arteta recently suggested Maitland-Niles isn’t a full-back though, clearly seeing the player’s future elsewhere on the pitch. He repeated this after the Soares signing on Friday.
“We have some necessities in certain areas, playing some players in positions that are not really their positions, Arteta said.
“With more time I would like to have specialists for every position to do exactly what we want to do.
“But Ainsley has adapted really well to that position, the same as Bukayo. They have been really helpful so why not? They can still play in those positions but naturally they are other type of players.”
The assumption is that Arteta sees Maitland-Niles as a midfielder. That’s where the player himself seems to want to play, and it’s where the head coach brought him on for a few minutes against Bournemouth last week.
That’s not the only position Maitland-Niles has played in though. He featured on the left for a while last season, and at right-wing at times this campaign. Maybe he’ll even stay at right-back if Arsenal continue to have injury troubles.
We’ll have to wait and see what Arteta does with him in the coming months. The signing of Soares could prove a blessing or a curse, depending on whether Maitland-Niles gets chances to impress elsewhere.