Mikel Arteta has shown his ruthless edge since arriving at the Emirates Stadium, with youngsters Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bukayo Saka in particular experiencing contrasting fortunes.
Saka has been a revelation since breaking into the Arsenal team, becoming a permanent fixture in the starting lineup – even when playing out of position for his new boss. However, although Maitland-Niles did start life positively under Arteta, he has fallen massively out of favour and has not featured since the Gunners’ 1-1 draw with Sheffield United on 18th January.
The Athletic report that the 22-year-old has been axed for for failing to meet the high standards set at the club by the new boss, having turned up late to training on several occasions.
Arteta has taken a strong stance over Maitland-Niles’ tardiness, especially considering the injury crisis that currently faces the Gunners. Arsenal have struggled to field a natural right-back for the majority of the campaign, with Hector Bellerin suffering a series of injury setbacks.
But despite Maitland-Niles being the best and most natural replacement position-wise, Arteta has opted to play Sokratis Papastathopoulos at full-back, dumping the out-of-favour Englishman from the squad entirely.
Speaking about Maitland-Niles’ future at the club, Arteta challenged the full-back to show that ‘he wants it more than anyone else,’ in order to regain his place in the side.
“Ainsley needs to put his head down and work hard,” said the Arsenal boss.
“Show me every day in training that he wants it more than anyone else, he wants to play for this club and fight for his place.”
But although Maitland-Niles has sunk under the tutelage of Arteta, one man has passed the test with flying colours.
Winger Saka has benefitted greatly from his new coach’s appointment, shooting to stardom in recent months and becoming an instant fan favourite. But his rise through the ranks has not gone unnoticed by other Premier League clubs, with rumours swirling regarding a possible summer swoop by Manchester United.
The Express report that the Gunners are ‘having conversations’ with the starlet – who is into the final 18 months of his current contract – but Arteta is ‘hopeful’ that Saka will tie his future to the north London club for the foreseeable future.
“The club is doing what it has to do and is having conversations,” he said. “[Hopefully] we’ll get it resolved.”
Saka has shown great maturity for his age, adapting to life in the first team with ease, and he has already laid on three assists for his teammates this campaign.
A future star – and one Arsenal hope will be lighting up the Emirates for years to come.