Ralph Hasenhuttl has admitted that Arsenal outcast Ainsley Maitland-Niles “isn’t ready” to play for Southampton as he has “a lot of work to do”.
Maitland-Niles progressed through the ranks at Arsenal and he has played 132 times for them since 2014.
The Englishman has only been a bit-part player for his boyhood club, though. The most Premier League appearances he has made in a single season is 20.
His versatility has hampered him somewhat as he has never been able to play regularly in one position. He prefers to play in centre-midfield but he has often been operated at full-back.
Maitland-Niles was linked with a permanent move away from Arsenal before the 2021/22 season but this did not come to fruition.
He went onto spent the last few months of the campaign on loan at Roma. This did not go to plan as he spent most of his time there on the bench.
The 25-year-old is now out on loan again as he has joined Southampton for the season. His Arsenal contract expires in 2024 and the Saints have an option to buy him next summer.
Maitland-Niles made a brief cameo against Wolves last month but he was not in the squad as Southampton were beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa on Friday.
Saints boss Hasenhuttl explained post-match that Maitland-Niles “had to adapt” before he can feature:
“We have with Ainsley a lot of work to do also because he has to adapt to our game and this is something that takes time a little bit,” Hasenhuttl stated after his side’s loss.
“We see also during the week what we ask him to do and especially in the midfield position it takes a little bit to understand how we want to do it.
“It doesn’t make sense to throw someone in who isn’t ready for what we want to do. When he is ready and on the level, we think he has to be then he will help us for sure.”
He added: “I think he’s a very good player on the ball but he has to learn that our game starts when the ball is not with us.
“I think this is something he had never needed to do in the clubs he was playing in.
“But meanwhile it’s modern football, this is a very crucial part, you can see this is still something he has to learn, therefore we are investing our time to make him better.
“He’s not the loud speaker, if you want, he takes responsibility on the pitch when he has the ball, definitely, he wants to show his qualities there.
“But I think to have a big impact in the future in football he has to add a few parts to his game he hasn’t had so far and we will help him doing this.”
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