After Arsenal’s cup heroics, the last thing that Gooners want to consider is the break-up of the squad that took them to the FA Cup final.
However, the financial reality is the Gunners will probably have to sell before they can buy, and Maitland-Niles, although versatile, is not exactly integral to Arsenal’s future success. In other words, for all his talents, he’s dispensable and replaceable.
Clearly, Maitland-Niles has buckled down under the Arteta regime, in a way that Guendouzi and Ozil seemingly have not, so the 22-year-old is not necessarily heading for the exit. Then again, the utility man’s game time has been limited, so no one would blame him for seeking pastures new.
No disrespect intended to Brighton, but wouldn’t Maitland-Niles be a luxury that they can’t really afford? Although, I’ve not exactly been the youngster’s biggest fan, there are times when he purrs on the pitch like Porsche. To me, Ainsley is like a luxury car, and when you have the richly-coveted possession of the ball, he can look like an expensive asset.
Recently, he has shown that he can graft too, but I’m still not convinced about what he offers defensively. Against Man City, instead of showing an attacker the line, he let him cut inside and unleash a shot. That’s not exactly what I would expect from a top Premiership defender.
Meanwhile, there is no doubt that Ainsley’s best position is in midfield. He has a lot of attacking attributes and pace, so surely he is best employed there in a side that dominates possession. Obviously Brighton fans would argue they are well capable of retaining the ball, as 63% possession against Newcastle indicates. However, against Southampton, the Seagulls only managed to keep the ball 32% of the time and, although they must be jubilant at staying up, it’s hard to see them not fighting another relegation battle next season. If that is indeed the case, the question is whether or not Maitland-Niles is a good fit. I’d suggest not.