Ashley Cole has labelled Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ versatility as his problem in failing to nail down a regular starting spot at Arsenal.
The England international is currently on a short-term loan deal at West Bromwich Albion as he looks to secure some much-needed game time ahead of the European Championship this summer.
Speaking to Sky Sports (via The Metro), the former Gunners man claimed as a young player you need to secure your starting spot.
Cole said: ” I think the problem he had was he was too versatile for his own good. There were so many players in the squad. You got an injury at right-back, left-back, central midfield, right-wing, left wing-back… he could play everywhere. ‘But it’s very important for young players to nail down a spot and really make that their own.”
Should Maitland-Niles start in central midfield more often?
As a young player, being versatile can be both a help and a hinder to your career. On the one hand, you’re more likely to get game time as you can slot into just about any position, however, as the 23-year-old has found out, it also leaves mass uncertainty over what your true position actually is.
Can anyone say for certain what Maitland-Niles’ best position is at this moment in time?
He grew up playing in the centre of midfield and even impressed there for the first-team as he won man of the match away to Manchester United. However, his consistent performances at full-back over the last couple of seasons show he is just as good of a defender as he is a midfielder.
As a matter of fact, he was a key asset in the Gunners’ backline during the FA Cup victory last season, starting in the wins over Manchester City and Chelsea at left wing-back.
One thing is for certain, Mikel Arteta sees the player as a full-back and his desires to play in the centre of midfield will cause more harm to his chances of staying at the Emirates Stadium beyond this summer.