Ainsley Maitland-Niles could not have picked a more fitting debut after joining West Brom on loan from Arsenal.
Away at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Arsenal man would have been relishing the opportunity to get one over on the Gunners’ biggest rivals.
However, things did not go to plan for the lowly Baggies, with Spurs, welcoming Harry Kane back into the team, running out 2-0 winners on the day.
Maitland-Niles left the Emirates to secure more game time, and particularly in his favoured midfield position, where he sees his Arsenal future.
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He had, so often, been utilised in a left-back slot for MIkel Arteta, but wants to showcase his skills in the middle of the park and prove he can cut it in the Arsenal starting lineup.
Against Spurs he was deployed in middle by Sam Allardyce, although there is a feeling that he may well have a different partner in there soon, as another new signing Okay Yokuslu beds in.
Joseph Chapman, Baggies reporter for our friends at Birmingham Live believes bigger tests are to come for Maitland-Niles, bigger even than this weekend’s game with Manchester United.
He said: “Maitland-Niles played in a midfield three of sorts on Sunday, a more box to box role than I thought he might have. He burst forwards once or twice but it was a difficult debut in that Albion are a side who will inevitably have little at the ball at a place like Spurs.
“The 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 is a system I can see quickly becoming a 4-2-3-1 when Matheus Pereira is brought back into the starting XI and so I predict that Maitland-Niles will be one of the two in front of the defence along with fellow newbie Okay Yokuslu.
“That’ll suit Albion. Romaine Sawyers and Jake Livermore have struggled for periods this season and Conor Gallagher is an excellent young player but doesn’t have as much experience at this level as Maitland-Niles, so I’d expect the new signings to get a chance to shine together.
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“As I say, I think it was a tricky game in which to make your first start, but he completed 90 minutes which was a positive in terms of the near future and getting his match fitness up. He made one key intervention on the edge of Albion’s box as Spurs poured forward in the first half and he also ventured forwards when permitted. Already you can see that Maitland-Niles is someone who could pop up in the box on the back of a run from deep to test the keeper.
“Ultimately Albion have a cluster of games coming up against sides above them in the table which will decide their fate. It’s in those games that Maitland-Niles must shine.
“There was promise in his display, but hopefully we’ll see him improve in conditions whereby he sees more of the ball.”