Kieran Tierney has recovered from his tight calf and will be assessed ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Newcastle United tonight.
His return tomorrow evening is desperately needed after what was one of the most underwhelming performances of the night against Palace. Ainsley Maitland-Niles struggled in a lot of areas of his game during the clash, highlighting the lack of attacking threat in Tierney’s absence.
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With Tierney in the side, Arsenal have width, good link-up play with the left-winger and a good crosser of the ball. Tierney’s performance against West Bromwich Albion was a great example of how much the Scotsman adds to the side when he’s playing.
Maitland-Niles was too narrow on Thursday evening, his positioning was similar to that of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is also a right-footer playing on the left-wing. As shown by the heatmap, there’s a huge chunk of grass empty by the touchline with both the player’s failure to add any threat.
Then there’s the England international’s ability on the ball. Too many times in the past, Maitland-Niles has been praised for his cool and calm demeanour on the ball. However, he was far too lax in possession on Thursday, giving the ball away a staggering 13 times during his 65 minutes on the field.
With a lack of threat and lack of ability on the ball, it’s hard to make a reason for why 23-year-old should start tonight. A continued absence for Tierney could prove detrimental for the Gunners, who will be desperately looking to close the gap to fourth-placed.