Ainsley Maitland Niles has had a difficult season. The Arsenal academy graduate featured for most of the Unai Emery era as a makeshift right-back following the injury to first-choice Hector Bellerin.
A midfielder by trade, Niles never hid the fact that he did not like playing as a defender and constantly publicly made his demands known. With Arteta in charge, Niles barely features and the Spanish manager is forced to use Sokratis who is a center back as the makeshift right back in some games.
Asked why Maitland Niles does not feature often after the FA cup win over Portsmouth, Arteta hinted as trouble behind the scenes with Niles, especially on the training ground.
“Ainsley needs to put his head down, work hard and show me every day in training he wants it more than anybody else and that he wants to play for this club and fight for his place,” Arteta said after the match with Portsmouth.
The Arsenal manager was however full of praise for Sokratis who was again deployed as the right-back. He opened the scoring and helped keep a clean sheet in the 2-0 win.
“He moans a little bit because it’s not his position,” Arteta joked, “but for certain games, I think [Sokratis] is very [much a] handful.
“He has always had the right attitude and has qualities to play there in certain moments when we need him.
“Sometimes he needs to interpret what’s happening, when we have the ball it’s a little bit difficult for him to use the space as he should do in relation to what the opponents are doing. But in general, he did really well again.”
Next up for Arsenal is a home League fixture against London rivals Westham on Saturday.