Arsenal should not sell Ainsley Maitland-Niles this summer
Full disclosure, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is one of my favourite players in the Arsenal squad. If you follow our Twitter account, you will know that I have been incredibly vocal and consistent in my support of the 22-year-old, despite his turbulent 2019/20 campaign.
Nonetheless, there are three reasons why I strongly believe that Arsenal should not sell Ainsley Maitland-Niles this summer, two of which have been discussed ad nauseam. Besides being an incredibly gifted footballer, Maitland-Niles’ versatility is invaluable.
Born in Goodmayes, London, the academy graduate – who made his 100th Arsenal appearance in the 2-1 FA Cup final win over Chelsea – can play virtually anywhere on the pitch because of his aforementioned talent and athleticism. Since making his competitive debut in 2014, he has featured at both full-back spots, on the wing, and in a couple of central midfield roles. He is unquestionably one of our most complete players.
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Furthermore, I would argue that he is our best right-back. Héctor Bellerín has struggled offensively since returning from his ACL injury, and Cédric Soares – who we stupidly decided to sign permanently – is nothing more than average. Maitland-Niles is an excellent one-on-one defender, is noticeable and influential going forward, and his best years are still ahead of him.
However, there is now a third reason why Maitland-Niles should not be sold, and it is arguably the most important. His head coach rates and trusts him. He would not have started him in our two biggest games of the season if he did not.
It is clear that Mikel Arteta wants to keep the academy graduate, yet the Arsenal hierarchy has allegedly told Maitland-Niles that he is available for transfer. Overruling your phenom head coach – the sole reason that you have European football – is one sure way to displease him. Arteta must be allowed to construct a squad which he values and believes in. I understand the need to raise funds, but you do not sell a young, versatile, and capable asset who could feature heavily in the coming years.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has all the attributes needed to succeed in the modern game. Intellect, defensive instincts and awareness, and the belief that he can beat anyone on the field. His unique combination of skill, utility, and club loyalty would be impossible to replace. Quite simply, selling him would be a huge mistake.