You generally expect that a manager will give chances to those who are in-form and working hard, but Mikel Arteta could be accused of being inconsistent with his approach to things.
Players like Willian and Aubameyang appeared to get as many chances as they liked even when they continued to let him down, while you get the feeling that he’s almost waiting for the younger players to play poorly to give him that excuse to drop them.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is starting to struggle again and he wasn’t even in the squad for Arsenal tonight after a poor performance vs Crystal Palace, so it does make you wonder about his Arsenal future.
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I’ve openly wondered on more than one occasion if he’s simply too versatile for his own good – he keeps getting plugged into gaps that might not be the most natural fit for him, so he never gets a chance to present the best version of himself and it’s almost impossible for him to nail down a regular role in the team.
His absence was brought up in Mikel Arteta’s press conference this evening and he was even asked about a failed transfer bid in the summer, but it doesn’t look like the manager has fully given up on his yet:
Smith-Rowe and Saka’s great form spells bad news for Maitland-Niles pic.twitter.com/QH5TOwLZjy
— CaughtOffside (@caughtoffside) January 18, 2021
It is clear that Maitland-Niles will need to work his socks off and play extremely well if he actually gets any more opportunities if he wants to become a regular part of the side, but it won’t be a surprise if he continues to be a bit-part player before being sold in the summer based on these words from Arteta.
He doesn’t sound like a manager who’s actively looking to give confidence to a young player and develop him – it sounds like he’s open minded if he suddenly plays out of his skin, but it’s not exactly reassuring from the player’s point of view.