Just a week before the much-anticipated UEFA Europa League final, Arsenal were struck with some distressing news. Henrikh Mkhitaryan won’t be travelling to Baku due to political issues preventing him from entering the country.
Indeed, while this distressing ban hasn’t only enraged fans, but it also piled the pressure on Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Now, the 21-year-old’s about to play in his first ever professional cup final. His opponent? None other than an in-form Eden Hazard, who surely want to gift Chelsea a final trophy before potentially flying off to Real Madrid. If the hard-working Mkhitaryan had been playing, Maitland-Niles would’ve at least had some support.
However, now it looks like Unai Emery might have to operate with his 3-5-2 formation. One can’t doubt on him for doing so, watching how it has brought him success in Europe. Great, right? Well, the formation also sees Maitland-Niles completely exposed.
Frankly, Hazard and company must be licking their lips.
The young makeshift wing-back is still very frail defensively, getting outsmarted and overpowered by many wingers. Now, the Belgian could end up having a field day unless he gets proper cover from fellow players. In his first ever final, the 21-year-old wouldn’t want to be humiliated by the freakishly talented winger.
While he’s proven to rise through to give emphatic performances on big occasions, replicating it in Baku will be a huge task. If he can keep Hazard quiet and rally on Arsenal to win it all, he’ll be adjourned a hero. Yet, ending up getting outplayed to concede silly goals could end his breakthrough season in nightmarish fashion.
Arsenal fans, do you think Maitland-Niles can keep Eden Hazard quiet next week? Join the discussion by commenting below…