Ex-Arsenal star’s ‘frustration’ after returning from England duty to be out of Arteta’s squad

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield on August 24, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Ainsley Maitland-Niles lost his place in the Arsenal team at the start of the 2020/21 season -Credit:Getty Images

Former Arsenal defender Ainsley Maitland-Niles has voiced his “frustration” at returning from England duty only to find himself sidelined at the club.

Having made a name for himself as a dynamic and versatile talent under Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery, and Mikel Arteta, Maitland-Niles hit a high in 2020 with an FA Cup victory, a Community Shield triumph against Liverpool, and earning his first England caps.

However, his progress was abruptly halted as he struggled to secure a spot in Arteta's lineup during the early stages of the 2020/21 season. That led to a series of disappointing loan stints at West Brom, Southampton, and Roma under Jose Mourinho, reports the Daily Star.

Now at Lyon, the 26-year-old has reflected on the pivotal moment his trajectory took a downturn. He pinpointed his exclusion from the Arsenal starting XI after returning from international duty in November 2020 as the beginning of his decline, which also saw him fall off Gareth Southgate's radar for England.

In a candid interview with The Athletic, Maitland-Niles said: "After my last cap for England [a 4-0 win over Iceland in November 2020], I came back to Arsenal and didn't make the starting XI, then it just went downhill. It's hard to get picked for England when you don't have consistent football, unless you're one of the regulars like Harry Maguire.

"It's frustrating. Everyone wants to play football and everyone wants to play for their country. It was the lack of football that was stopping me. I went on a few loans after that to try to pick up momentum but it didn't go to plan. It was always my interest to be playing football and not sit on the bench waiting for my turn."

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Despite not making his mark at Arsenal like his fellow Hale End graduates Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, Maitland-Niles still supports the Gunners from afar and is rooting for them to snatch the Premier League title after a 20-year wait in just two weeks.

But Maitland-Niles could soon lift his own first trophy in France following his free transfer to Lyon last summer. Despite a challenging season where he has had to play under three different managers, victory over Kylian Mbappe's Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France final on May 25 would make it all worthwhile.

Facing the task of containing Mbappe, Maitland-Niles admitted: "He's the best player I've faced in my career, He's everything and more that everyone says about him.

"He's got pace, power, strength and a great shot. He's a very intelligent player, so it will be difficult. But it's time to get some payback and cap off the year with a trophy."