According to the Mirror, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is thinking about starting Ainsley Maitland-Niles in today’s massive FA Cup final clash against London rivals Chelsea.
The Mirror report that with Shkodran Mustafi still sidelined, Arteta faces a difficult decision in defence and could switch to a three centre-backs and wing-backs formation – opening space for Maitland-Niles.
The Gunners have had success against Manchester City and Liverpool with this formation, it’s seen Kieran Tierney feature as a left-sided centre-back.
Maitland-Niles is familiar with the role having played as a left wing-back in the shock win against the Citizens, promising talent Bukayo Saka is also an option for this spot – but the ace has been deployed further forward recently.
Here’s what the Mirror predict Arsenal will line up this evening: Martinez; Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Tierney, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Ceballos; Pepe, Aubameyang; Lacazette.
Maitland-Niles played the full 90 minutes in Arsenal’s fine league game of the season against Watford, with the ace featuring at right-back for that outing.
The Arsenal academy graduate seems like the best option to call on if Arteta is thinking of deploying this formation, the Gunners can’t call on Cedric Soares either because the Portuguese ace is cup-tied.
Frank Lampard also deploys a similar formation for the Blues, with Marcos Alonso and Reece James or Cesar Azpilicueta used as wing-backs alongside three centre-backs – we’re in for a real tactical battle.
Maitland-Niles could actually be the perfect option for the Gunners given the threat the Blues pose on the counter-attack with their marauding wing-backs, the driving Mason Mount and most importantly the lightning-fast Christian Pulisic.
The Mirror revealed earlier this week that Maitland Niles recorded the seventh-fastest top speed of the Premier League season with an impressive 23.27mph.
The 22-year-old is the ideal kind of all-around skilled and hardworking option to play this role for the Gunners.