Tag Archives: maitland niles

Smith-Rowe and Kid Gloves

You know those nights out that you have been planning for weeks? For once, the whole gang have been corralled into being free for this one night. Everyone will be there, we all know the score, and we’re heading to a very exclusive venue.

It’s going to be one of those events we will all remember, it will live long in the memory.

The trouble is, the weight of expectation crushes it – as well as your pal Terry who was well and truly trolleyed at least three hours before you even reached the club

You’ve built this up sky-high, and it means that your expectations will never match up to the actual night – leaving you with an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Well, the same goes – mostly – for young footballers.

These bright young things burst into our field of vision with a searing white heat, emblazoning their name upon your retina and your memory. Your first glimpses of these starlets set the bar high, and you know that they have the potential to be even better.

These teenagers are nowhere near their peak years, and yet they’re already mindblowingly good. They take the ball and they confront defenders, impudently asking them questions that season upon season of cynical fouling and defensive coaching hasn’t quite destroyed yet.

It is a breath of fresh air, and thanks to the wonders of social media, their name and their display soon spreads, like a Russian plot behind a Trump campaign. Soon, they appropriate a phrase, one that is often the nadir of any hopes they – and you  – once had of seeing these prospects fully realising their talents.

They become ‘The Next Big Thing.’

At Arsenal, we’ve had this many times over the years in the Wenger era. The Frenchman had a penchant for finding a diamond in the rough in the hope that a bit of spit and elbow grease can coax out every bit of promise.

Sometimes it worked. Cesc Fabregas was a surefire hit. Nicolas Anelka was a real find. Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi were tracked all the way through the youth systems. Aaron Ramsey was a first-teamer early on, but he has come on leaps and bounds from the fresh-faced teenager that turned down Manchester United to come to London Colney.

There are others too though, that fell by the wayside. Quite a few actually.

For every Anelka, we had a Daniel Crowley. For every Cesc, we had a Jeremie Aliadiere or a Yaya Sanogo.

It shows that talent isn’t everything that comprises a top-flight success. The amount of careers that started at a major club and the majority of their professional lives were spent in lower leagues is evidence enough to show how tough it is to make that next step from starlet to bona fide first teamer.

It is why expectations should be scaled back a little.

skysports-emile-smith-rowe_4372267

It is why Emile Smith-Rowe should be cherished, but avoid the heavy burden of our heavy breathing as we salivate over what could be.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide was in the exact same position only a couple of seasons ago. The Emirates Cup was buzzing as fans were able to catch a glimpse of the player given the moniker, ‘The Jeff.’

Big things were expected, and the rare sightings we had of him and the comments from coaches and teammates were indicating that he was the real deal.

Yet, on the day Emile Smith-Rowe made his first big splash upon our senses, the very same day Jeff Reine-Adelaide had signed a permanent deal for Ligue Un minnows Angers.

Apparently, it was a mix of money demands and first team requests that drove Jeff to move from the club, but either way, it is another player who has failed to reach the heights we know they can reach, at our club.

Emile Smith-Rowe has been making waves for the youth teams since last season, big enough for the discerning Gooner to be aware of his presence. But it was his inclusion in the Singapore squad and his subsequent fantastic solo effort against Atletico Madrid that showed we may have a real gem in our ranks.

It seems that he has the world at his feet, but we’ve been burned before. We should hold back on placing so much emphasis on the development of Smith-Rowe, as Crowley, Reine-Adelaide and others have shown that talent isn’t everything.

If Smith-Rowe shows the same level of intensity and dedication that recent youth converts Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Eddie Nketiah have shown – then Smith-Rowe could well be too dazzling for words.

The thing is though, is it is very uncertain right now. We have no idea what will happen.

All we can do is trust the framework at the club to treat the kid with kid gloves, and his rare forays in cup games are enough to avoid stunting his growth but also enough to let him shine.

We could place far too much weight on the kid, and most likely we will do.

But Smith-Rowe is that good.

Slow and steady everyone.

Leicester City Vs Arsenal – PL Preview

We go to Leicester tonight, in a bid to finally end our torrid away record. We have two away games left in our season – can we win away from The Emirates in 2018?

After the fantastic send-off we gave Arsene Wenger at our last home game this season – the weekend’s 5-0 thumping of Burnley was a perfect display of football that Wenger adores – these remaining two games can seem a tad pointless.

But with an away record like ours, this needs rectifying. Now.

Foxes Vs Gunners

Also, this game is the perfect opportunity to blood our youngsters further, against top opposition. We can see them playing at the level they need to in order to make it at our club, and they could well represent our future.

Two players who seem like they have a bright future in the red and white are Konstandinos Mavropanos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. The Man United loss a week ago was a close tun thing, and these two youngsters stole the show with their discipline and performance way above their years. The Greek defender should get the nod again as he did in the last two PL games, and with Koscielny out for six months, this could see a budding partnership with Calum Chambers.

Then there is Ainsley Maitland-Niles. He started the season as a member of the squad, filling in at full-back. His displays are such, that he’s ending the season as a viable choice in central midfield.

With the contract situations hanging over Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, it’s a good thing AMN is showing his talents.

Mesut Ozil has probably played his last game this season, after Wenger confirmed his back complaint will end his season prematurely. That means there is a spot in our attack free too, and that could mean a start for Reiss Nelson, although he could also be used at full-back.

Jo Willock is another youth who could get the nod, and starting alongside Granit Xhaka means there will be an emphasis on his defensive duties. Wenger can have some fun with his selection here, although if he wants to destroy the away curse, then a strong side is the way to go. Our attack should be at full strength, with both Aubameyang and Lacazette set to start together again.

Then again, if he doesn’t give the kids a chance, then there will be the inevitable detractors who think this is the ideal chance for the kids to shine. With Santi Cazorla and Mohamed Elneny also out, then the very least he can do is give some of them the first half.

For Leicester, Claude Puel is going backwards after a promising start as Foxes boss. They’ve lost their last few, and a home game against an undercooked Arsenal backline could be just what the Foxes ordered. They have the capacity to pack the midfield and clog our runners, and then with Jamie Vardy in their ranks, they have the perfect counter-attacking blade to slice us with.

Eight goals conceded in our last four away games, and just three scored. That’s what we have to contend with. Low confidence, tactics set to stifle, and poor form. With our win over Burnley, hopefully we have the wind in our sails.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Mavropanos, Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck, Aubameyang, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Maitland-Niles – Worth A Shot?

The summer in football deals in absolutes. It is either a time filled with nothing other than spurious transfer rumours, or it has an international tournament – and spurious transfer rumours.

Either way, we all have to deal with more than our fair share of fake news. 

This gruesome conveyor belt of fabrication lives on thanks to the glimmer of hope that lives within every football fan. We all wait for that one story that actually has its origins steeped in veracity, for the fabled marquee signing which means next season is filled with more optimism than ever.

We all love it when new blood is transfused into our club. Talents from around the world with impressive pedigree’s and assets that can boost our fortunes. What is easy to forget is the precious stones we already have at our club.

The youth systems at every top-flight club are put under more and more strain as each campaign passes, and with each transfer into the club, another talented youngster must leave the club in order to grow as a player and achieve their potential. 

At what point do you begin to blood a player in the first team though – and forego a transfer?

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a perfect example of this dilemma.

The 19 year old is back from his successful exploits in South Korea with the England U-20 side, where he helped the Young Lions lift the trophy.  Two seasons ago saw a baptism of fire as he spent the entire season on loan at Ipswich and earned more than rave reviews and plenty of gametime.

Last season was his first taste of Arsenal first team affairs since 2014 as a second half sub, and the youngster impressed at right-back in an EFL Cup match against Nottm Forest. It was his start against Southampton in an FA Cup 5-0 win though, that really alerted fans to his progress.

Despite his lack of years, Maitland-Niles seemed to grasp the first lesson most newbies need to learn before all else – do the simple things well. The 19 year old kept the Arsenal wheels greased with tidy possession, and broke up any attacks that the Saints attempted. Maitland-Niles’s performance belied his tender age.

His next appearance was a second half substitute, again in the FA Cup, but he was training with the first team, and this would no doubt help his development. He may have made a low amount of appearances, but he has not put a foot wrong when called upon. 

At what point does a youngster get the break he needs to jump to the next stage and fulfill the potential they have?

With Arsenal coming off of a disappointing season in the league, the pressure from the fanbase is for investment in a squad that underperformed. With Santi Cazorla also out for another five months, it would seem that midfield needs a fillip in the form of new blood.

Could that new blood be Maitland-Niles? Would a spot on the bench be perceived as a weakness in the squad, or can Maitland-Niles justify his elevated status? Let us not forget the kid’s flexibility in playing positions. He can play in the centre, on the right and on the right of defence, but can versatility harm his prospects?

The pre-season tour of Asia and Australia showed that versatility can mean he may get extra minutes on the pitch, but if Maitland-Niles can’t designate himself in either midfield or defence, will he be able to master either sufficiently? 

There will come a time when he must hold down one position, but Wenger is more than adept at buffing a jewel enough to see the real beauty inside. He will already have Maitland-Niles’s strengths in his mind and have a good idea where he can be best utilised.
The next step for the youngster is to continue to perform when called upon. He will have more chances this coming season, and if he does as well as he has been, then we may just have another gem on our hands a la Iwobi, Wilshere and Bellerin.