Should I stay or should I go now? PICTURE: Ainsley Maitland-Niles. CREDIT: OFFSIDE
The Ainsley Maitland-Files – A case that exposes the poor management of Arsenal's squad
With Ainsley Maitland-Niles heading for the exit door, I’m yet again disappointed by another one of Arsenal’s sales, writes Jimmy Grain.
Nervous yet somehow composed, relaxed but somehow intense, Ainsley was starting to show some real promise in an Arsenal shirt.
Two stellar performances in the final stages of the FA cup and a couple of excellent league games, (Wolves springs to mind, annoyingly), have failed to earn him a place in our future.
Self-sustaining clubs have to sell to buy, granted.
But with a list of Cedric Soares, a bigger surplus of centre backs than toilet rolls in some Covid-time households, Sead Kolasinac, and - dare I say his name without being cursed by the evil spirit of Recep Erdogan - Mesut Ozil, one wonders why it is our academy graduate that has to take the hit.
When George Graham took control of the Arsenal team in 1986 he gave game time to Tony Adams, Micheal Thomas, Paul Merson and David Rocastle, stating that ‘I don’t think anybody realised how good these young players were’ and adding that ‘I had Ferguson’s class of 92 a year or two earlier.’
Adams was a clear leader amongst that group of hungry youngsters and it would be disingenuous to suggest that Ainsley is a similar figure - but he is the most senior and experienced of our young English talent.
Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah all saw Ainsley break into the first team under Arsene Wenger and were given hope - hope that they may now be questioning.
Having homegrown talent who are passionate about the club is essential in creating a great team and we should think twice, thrice and some more before selling them.
The imminent sale of Maitland-Niles to Wolves has a strong air of Alex Iwobi’s Everton deal about it.
He was an important component of Unai Emery’s Arsenal and was undoubtedly missed this season.
Although we got a good deal for him financially, we chose to put him up for sale and it seemed an odd decision to let go of another player who had broken through and impressed.
There is a talented, hard-working and direct player in there but we let him go without really replacing him.
And that's not to mention his pristine injury record.
We’ve now signed Willian a year later but he’s eight years older and at the age of 32 its difficult to justify signing him on a three-year contract when he’s not an outstandingly influential player.
Wouldn’t it show more ambition to have faith in our talented youth rather than sign a player who to be frank, only joined us because we offered him a better retirement deal than Chelsea?
We are trying to turn a corner and it is important for us psychologically to avoid taking rejects from our rivals, David Luiz, Mikael Silvestre and William Gallas all failed to strengthen us and perpetuated the feeling that we aren’t challenging the teams above us but simply trying to keep up with them.
Maitland-Niles is now being touted as a young James Milner, who would have thought that?
Holding the FA Cup in hand, he was asked how he found playing at left wing-back and responded with ‘I love it over there.’
It is a leader’s attitude to sacrifice yourself for the better of the team and in playing in positions he was uncomfortable with, (on his debut mind), he showed great courage and resilience.
This is a man who could do a job anywhere on the pitch apart from at striker or centre half.
Thus, besides him being strong, fit, fast and technically sound we’re also losing a man of good character.
A guy who’s recently developed an aggression and intelligence to his game and will only keep improving.
It will be with great sadness that we have to say goodbye to him.
Sadly, this is another transfer that fails to convince me that the people in charge at Arsenal are really ready to take us to a new level, despite the encouraging acquisition of Gabriel Maghalaes, who I believe will be a shrewd purchase.