Tag Archives: fullback

Maitland-Niles: Cold-Blooded and Ready

Ice in your veins.

A classic sign that a player has the temperament needed to not only eke out their full potential on the pitch – but also ensure they do the same on the training pitch – with sheer, bloody-minded dedication.

It requires a thought process that is blinkered, focused on a single narrative.

To be the best you can be. All the best players have it and it is never clearer than in moments of pressure.

It is a necessary component on the way to reaching the top. Just watch when a player is plying his or her trade in a high-stakes match. A Cup Final, a derby, a knockout game. Where every second counts.

Firstly, the player with icicles in their bloodstream will desire the ball at every conceivable opportunity. They will be confident that they can sway the match and can’t sit by and wait for the game to come to them. They feel they must act NOW.

And when the opportunity arises? To change the game in an instant?

In the immortal words of a Mr B. Rabbit;

“Will you capture it? Or just let it slip?”

A penalty. A free-kick. A chance in the box. A moment that needs the coolest of heads.

Like a penalty in a penalty shootout perhaps?

Or a performance in a Cup Final against a derby opponent?

Just watch Ainsley Maitland-Niles in both the Community Shield shootout and his entire first half against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.

Maitland-Niles mentality

His penalty was as nonchalant as they come. A trot forward, a swish of his boot and he sidefoots it past a keeper who has been nigh-on unbeatable at times last season.

His display against Chelsea was a surprise. Not because we didn’t think he had it in him, but we didn’t foresee AMN starting. Especially in midfield. But it was his constant running that stretched the Blues, put them on the backfoot. They couldn’t contain him and so they became defensive. It was predominantly AMN that changed the game for Arsenal against Chelsea – and Aubameyang applied the finish.

He couldn’t bear to let it pass him by – so he took the game by the scruff of the neck and demanded it follow instruction.

And not once did he lose his cool. All of the above was done with the same quiet, focused aura that he always maintains.

His displays have been rewarded with his first ever England senior call-up and it is hard to disagree that he doesn’t deserve it. He has been much more than a standby full-back – but it has been vitally important to his growth that he has played in that position.

He has filled in on both the right and left of defence, all the while knowing that his most effective – and favoured – position is in the centre of the park. Yet he knuckled down, learned the skills for that role and it has improved him. His timing seems to be excellent, his runs never leaving the team short and always arriving when the attack needs him.

Maitland-Niles, if he continues to progress and put in displays of this ilk, can go on to cement a first-team place in his favoured role. It all depends on Arteta’s formation, but with three in the centre, he can be the glue that binds both Xhaka and Ceballos.

AMN is on the rise and is hot property – but the Hale End boy is ice-cold.

The Ox at Wing-Back

Published on Goonersphere. ​

New ideas bring new viewpoints. Standing in a different position gives a completely different look on proceedings, and this may just have happened in recent weeks for Arsenal – and certainly for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.


The stagnation of Arsenal looked to have taken root. Four consecutive away losses, of which we conceded three goals each time. A royal hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich. Falling away in the Premier League. The rot appeared to have gone all the way through the squad and there was no fight evident, there was no resistance. Only a meek surrender akin to an injured gazelle, too exhausted to keep running from the chasing predators. We were easy prey, rivals and smaller clubs taking advantage of an apparently stricken beast.

Arsene Wenger looked to be devoid of ideas, arms wide and raised in a desperate signal to the gods. His tried and trusted tactics were no longer up to scratch, they were in fact dragging the team down. The players also looked unable to find the extra gears they required to simply avoid defeat.

Wenger picked up the dice and threw. He opted to change formation and go with three central defenders at the back for the first time since 1997. On that occasion, we had Steve Bould, Tony Adams and Martin Keown in the team. Three of the hardest, most disciplined and organised defenders the Premier League has ever seen. This time though, we had Laurent Koscielny marshalling the errant Gabriel and the inexperienced Rob Holding.

The formation may have been branded as wholly new by all and sundry, but the only difference was it gave our fullbacks a bit more license to roam forward.

It also gave Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a bit more responsibility – and he has taken it and run with it.















In the games it has been employed, we have looked more alive than in recent months and The Ox has been instrumental.

We were all aware of his attacking threat and his intent with the ball. We were also aware of his tendency to lose the ball as he takes on players. This season has seen a wiser Ox though, and his utilisation at central midfield earlier in the season saw him in a far more efficient light than in previous seasons.

It is his work in a wing-back role in this 3-5-2 that has been revolutionary though. Who knew that The Ox could double-task? He has been asked to patrol the right side of the pitch – both in defence and attack, and he has done so with zeal and merit.

He has changed games in attack as he searches for the early ball or to torment his opposing fullback. The Ox has enhanced his dribbling and he has lessened the wastefulness that has blighted his time an a Gunners shirt. He has improved his final ball and has made sure he has lifted his head up rather than ploughing on into blind corners. He has made the difference.

It is in defence though that he has proved his worth. He has been quite excellent in covering the defensive part of the field, he has helped out Gabriel in that part of the pitch in a massive way.

The Brazilian has come on leaps and bounds with the security offered by Chamberlain. The Ox’s reservoirs of stamina means he has been up and down his flank like a clock pendulum on meth amphetamine.

If this formation sticks and we adopt it, then The Ox will be as vital a player as any other on the field. His adaptability has seen him rise to the fore and this in turn may just get him the improved contract he desires – and now warrants.