Versatility is absolutely a blessing and a curse in football, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles providing the perfect example.
When he first broke through that versatility allowed him to pick up valuable game time because he was able to fill in for different players in the team, while he’s more likely to make a bench because it gives the manager more options.
The problem comes when he reaches that age where he should be established as a first team player, because we still don’t really know what his best position is.
He’s billed as a midfielder and it looks like he wants to play in the centre, but he’s usually deployed as an emergency wing back and that doesn’t always allow him to impress.
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He’s moved on loan to West Brom so that should give him a solid run of games to show everyone what he can do, but he could encounter the same issue when he returns to The Emirates in the summer.
Caught Offside asked Arsenal legend Michael Thomas about the youngster’s future and what it could hold, and it’s clear he feels he needs to become a right back if he wants to make it at the club:
“I’m not sure if he would get into a top team as a central midfielder, but he could have a real chance as a right back”
This could present Maitland Niles with the ultimate dilemma if it’s true – Does he want to play at the highest possible level or does he want to play in his favourite role?
He could be a brilliant full back in the modern game because he’s full of energy and great at carrying the ball, so he could emerge as a proper attacking threat if he nailed down the role, but he would need to work on his defensive qualities and his confidence in actually playing in the position.
That’s a problem that can wait until the summer and his work at West Brom will go a long way to making Mikel Arteta’s mind up, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.