Date: 7th March 2021 at 10:00am
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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?

Yes

Yes

No

No

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.

In other news, Arsenal and a European giant are enjoying differing fortunes during the same rebuild on the 13th anniversary of a famous clash.