Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is finally ready to use Ainsley Maitland-Niles in his preferred central midfield position following the injury suffered by Granit Xhaka in the north London derby.
The Switzerland international will miss the next three months of the campaign after suffering a knee ligament injury when Spurs winger Lucas Moura collided into his leg in the second half of last Sunday’s impressive 3-1 victory.
Gunners star Xhaka has endured a miserable start to the new campaign. He tested positive for Covid-19, saw red and had to serve a three-match ban and now his injury blow.
But the 29-year-old’s unfortunate situation could allow Maitland-Niles to finally shine in his favourite position.
Arteta doesn’t have that many numbers centrally, with only Thomas Partey, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Mohamed Elneny to call on. With that being the case, Arteta admits Maitland-Niles could now get a chance to impress.
Asked how big a blow it is to lose Xhaka, Arteta said: “He’s a big, big loss and we’re going to lose him for a while.
“We’ll try to keep him as close as possible to the team. He will evolve and develop in other areas.
“It’s the first big injury that he’s had. We are here to help him and I am sure we will find other ways around the team because we have some other really good players that will step in and do the job.”
Arteta accessing his midfield options
Asked if Maitland-Niles could be one of those, Arteta replied: “Ainsley is certainly one of the options.
“We have used him quite a lot since the start of the season. He’s doing really well and I’m pleased with what I’ve seen from him.”
Maitland-Niles shone playing in midfield on loan at West Brom last season. However, Arteta has largely used him predominantly as a utility player at full-back.
Speaking about his desire to play in midfield, Maitland-Niles said earlier this year: “I want to play in the centre of the pitch because I feel comfortable there and there’s a lot of things I can bring by playing in the middle.
“You can control the game from there and I think my attributes help me do that.”
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