Why Ainsley Maitland-Niles may be the answer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal woes

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should be hoping for a recall for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to help him rediscover his goalscoring touch. Aubameyang has looked a shadow of himself since he signed his new contract in September. He has failed to score a Premier League goal from open play since the opening day win over Fulham.

Mikel Arteta has played Aubameyang on the left, on the right and most recently against Leeds United through the middle.

But whatever position the Gabon international plays, he cannot get into the game.

It is not as though he is missing a load of chances either, having just 13 shots in total in his nine league outings.

According to Wyscout, the most shots Aubameyang has registered in a single league game is four in the 3-0 victory at Fulham.

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Coincidentally, the match at Craven Cottage was one of Maitland-Niles’ two starts in the league so far this season.

On the face of it, that means nothing. But delve a bit deeper and you will find perhaps the missing link for Aubameyang so far this term.

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Aubameyang led Arsenal to FA Cup glory last season, with a brace in both the semi-final and final wins over Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.

Maitland-Niles started both matches at left wing-back, a role which ultimately earned him his first call-up to the senior England squad.

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The 23-year-old did not have a direct influence on any of Aubameyang’s four cup goals but his presence on the left-hand side is a different proposition for opposition defenders.

Maitland-Niles is right-footed, so his natural instinct when on the left is to drift inside rather than making a run on the outside.

And that was showcased brilliantly in both the Community Shield win over Liverpool and easy victory over Fulham.

Aubameyang scored an almost identical goal in each match, cutting in from the left and curling an unstoppable shot past the helpless goalkeeper.

On both occasions Maitland-Niles made his run inside, causing the opposition to think about him as well as Aubameyang.

Kieran Tierney was also present, bursting to the outside of Aubameyang, giving another headache to the defenders.

The runs from Maitland-Niles and Tierney allowed Aubameyang that extra bit of time to shift the ball onto his right and score what had become a customary finish for the former Borussia Dortmund star.

Since the short trip to Craven Cottage, Maitland-Niles has started just one league match – the 3-1 loss at Liverpool. Replicating their link-up is much harder at the home of the champions.

But it is something Arteta needs to look at. He needs to get Aubameyang into as many shooting positions as possible and if purely the presence and movement of Maitland-Niles does that, it’s certainly worth giving a go.

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