Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has been questioned by Kevin Campbell over his decision to leave Ainsley Maitland-Niles out in the cold in recent weeks. The 23-year-old was a regular at the start of the campaign. But he’s clocked up just 37 minutes of game time over the Gunners’ last two matches.
Arsenal were far too strong for West Brom on Saturday, scoring four times on a snowy evening at the Hawthorns.
Kieran Tierney and Bakuyo Saka both struck in the first half, with Alexandre Lacazette then bagging a brace after the interval.
For Arsenal, it was a positive night. But Maitland-Niles was left on the bench again, only being introduced with just over half an hour remaining.
And Campbell, speaking to Football Insider, has labelled Arteta’s decision to omit the England international from his side as ‘strange’.
“Bellerin has done OK in the past few games,” he said.
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“I would not say he has been brilliant but he has done OK.
“I think Maitland-Niles played very well against Everton but Bellerin has been back in the side since Chelsea. That was a really good win and Maitland-Niles has found himself out in the cold again.
“It’s really strange because I thought he was Arsenal’s top performer against Everton. I do not know what was going on at the football club.
“If it is frustrating for me I can only imagine what it is like for Maitland-Niles. It must be driving him up the wall.”
Campbell’s comments come just days after he’d expressed a belief Maitland-Niles would leave the Emirates Stadium.
Manchester United and Wolves were both linked with him back in the summer transfer window, only to pursue alternative targets instead.
And Campbell previously said: “I think he will pursue an exit in the summer.
“Although he loves the club, he is an England international now – he has to play football.
“There is no point loving the club and being a bit-part player. You have proven you can do it on numerous occasions, you are a full England international and you are on the bench…
“That is not going to last.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal boss Arteta was delighted with his side’s performance in the victory over West Brom.
“At the end of the day, I wasn’t that concerned with the performances,” he said.
“I think we lost games that we were really unlucky [in] and most of them it was our own fault, because we made some errors and lacked some discipline in certain moments.
“But obviously you need to win football matches and now this brings a different momentum, energy and as well the players they get the handbrake off and you can see that they are more free to play.”
Arsenal are next in action against Newcastle on Saturday (5.30pm).