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Ainsley Maitland-Niles continues to pay the price for failing to meet Mikel Arteta’s ‘non-negotiables’ and hasn’t featured in the Premier League since mid-January, despite Arsenal’s continuing problems at right-back.
January loan recruit Cedric Soares is still yet to make his debut following his arrival from Southampton due to a knee injury, while Hector Bellerin has struggled to find his best form and maintain full fitness since returning to the side after 10 months out, having undergone major knee surgery.
Maitland-Niles starred in the New Year’s Day win over Manchester United but has started only once in the Premier League since then and featured only briefly as a substitute in the FA Cup and Europa League.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos has been tasked with filling in at full-back and although the experienced Greek international has performed adequately, he has lacked the attacking thrust provided by Arsenal’s conventional full-backs.
According to The Athletic’s David Ornstein, speaking on the Ornstein and Chapman podcast, Arteta’s decision to exile the 22-year-old is down to the player having been late for several training sessions.
Upon succeeding Unai Emery, Arteta outlined his intention to take a hard-line stance with any player who failed to put the team ahead of their individual aspirations and would have been irked by Maitland-Niles publicly airing his dissatisfaction at having been asked to play out of position.
Asked how the youngster could force his way back into the reckoning, Arteta said last week: ‘Ainsley needs to put his head down and work hard.
‘Show me every day in training that he wants it more than anyone else, he wants to play for this club and fight for his place.’