Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles claims Unai Emery has been playing him out of position, having risen through the youth ranks as a midfielder.
The 22-year-old has been a regular in the Gunners starting line up at right-back since Hector Bellerin suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in a clash with Chelsea way back in January.
Maitland-Niles has featured in all five of Arsenal’s Premier League matches at the start of the new season, contributing two assists to help the team earn eight points from a possible 15.
However, the versatile ace has conceded that Emery has been playing him out of position ahead of a Europa League opener against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday night.
“Only time will tell and of course I want to play as many games as I can,” Maitland-Niles told Sky Sports.
“I want to stay in the team, but if the manager chooses to pick him over me, that’s something I will have to live with. I’ll just have to keep training and working hard so that I get picked instead.
“I’m a midfielder by trade, either central or on the wing, it’s all the same to me. 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.
“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.
“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.”
Bellerin has finally made a return to training, which means Maitland-Niles might be able to start pushing for a place in the middle of the park.
The England U21 international went on to admit that finishing in the Premier League’s top four is Arsenal’s “main aim” this term, amid a hectic schedule which includes regular Thursday night fixtures in the Europa League.
“It does [have an impact on Premier League form] because you don’t really get enough time to recover from the games properly,” he added.
“But we’ve been through it before, two seasons in a row, and all we can do is keep on trying to get the hours in to recover, sleep and then get our tactical side ready for the next game.
“The Premier League is the main competition that we want to solidify our place in. The top four would be brilliant, and anything outside of that would be unexpected for us.
“We’d been in the Champions League for so long, but we have to get back into it. That’s the main aim.”