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Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the latest player to receive a challenge from Mikel Arteta to work hard on the training ground to win his place back.
Maitland-Niles is struggling to get into the team under Arteta, making three one-minute substitute appearances in the last month and a half. His last start was against Sheffield United in mid-January, in the final game before Hector Bellerín’s injury return.
For many, this is a difficult situation to understand. Maitland-Niles was playing well enough over the festive period, so the decision to even start picking Sokratis ahead of him seems strange.
Arteta answered a question on the subject from Football.London on Monday.
“Ainsley needs to put his head down, work hard and show me every day in training he wants it more than anybody else,” Arteta said. “That he wants to play for this club and fight for his place.”
The clear suggestion is that Arteta’s decision is based on application rather than ability. It’s a principle he’s already used to justify a couple of other exclusions since joining, with Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos dropping out over their attitude.
In their cases, they worked hard and got back into the team. It’s up to Maitland-Niles to do the same now.