Ainsley Maitland-Niles is proving his point to Mikel Arteta, Gareth Southgate and Sam Allardyce all at the same time.
West Bromwich Albion’s on-loan England international wanted to move to the Hawthorns to prove that he could play in midfield as that is where he sees his career in the long term.
Now, Maitland-Niles, 23, has also played two full games of 90 minutes back-to-back for the first time since way back in September.
His individual performances have brought praise from West Brom boss Allardyce who believes he has helped play a major part in two better team performances, albeit a defeat at Tottenham and then a much better, gritty draw with Manchester United.
Allardyce said: “Ainsley has got legs, energy and covers a lot of ground. He’s got quality on the ball, work rate and a lot to offer in midfield. I’m hoping we’ll see a lot more of that in the weeks to come.”
That is definitely the point. Maitland-Niles will get better with regular games, match sharpness and a desire to show exactly what he can do.
Gunners boss Arteta has said publicly he sees Maitland-Niles as an Arsenal player in the long term so there is an element here of proving to his parent club that he can play midfield.
Maitland-Niles specifically chose to go to West Brom over Southampton and Newcastle as Allardyce saw him as a midfielder rather than a full back.
It may be that, long term, he ends up as a full back or a wing back but at least he is bold enough to try playing in midfield, the position he grew up paying and enjoyed success with England at youth level by winning the Under-20s World Cup in 2017.
Maitland-Niles showed against Manchester United that he has pace and energy to play in a Premier League midfield while his extra bit of quality has impressed Allardyce.
West Brom are still hoping they can pull off a miracle and stay up and Maitland-Niles will be an important part of that if they are to string some results together.
It is obvious that England boss Southgate at this stage sees Maitland-Niles as a squad player, good, versatile cover and he is also a very loyal manager who sticks by players who are good to him.
Maitland-Niles turned up for England squads with great enthusiasm, is desperate to play at the Euros which is why he wanted to move in January and if he gets game time then Southgate is likely to stick with him for next month’s World Cup qualifiers – and beyond.
He has been happy to fill in where necessary, played a major part in Arsenal’s FA Cup win last season as a wing back and did a job there for England.
But this is also a chance for him to show his real potential in midfield – and prove that he can cut it at the top level.
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