Ainsley Maitland-Niles was in and out of the Arsenal team during Unai Emery’s tenure at the club, though that was partly due to injuries.
In Emery’s first season at Arsenal, Maitland-Niles picked up an injury 35 minutes into the first game of the campaign. Even upon his return, he struggled to break back into the side at first.
The rest of the season was much more encouraging, and Maitland-Niles started the new campaign in Emery’s first-choice lineup.
But after a red card against Aston Villa, his second red card in seven league games, Maitland-Niles was dropped and didn’t return to the side until Emery left.
Despite those ups and downs, Maitland-Niles spoke positively of Emery in an interview this week, arguing the coach deserved more time at Arsenal.
“When Unai came in he was very energetic — similar to Mikel — and very enthusiastic in how he wanted us to play,” Maitland-Niles said.
“I would have liked to have played more under him, but I was important in some big games. He was a great manager. The club should have given him a little bit more time.”
Emery is certainly impressing with new club Aston Villa, helping them to 13 wins in their first 22 games under his management and pushing them into contention for European football next season.
A top-four finish seems unlikely, but you wouldn’t bet against Villa to finish fifth or sixth on current form, which would be enough to qualify for the Europa League or Europa Conference League.
But Arsenal fans won’t be complaining about the decision to let Emery go, given it set the club on the trajectory to be where they are today.
As for Maitland-Niles, he’s set to depart Arsenal as a free agent this summer.