Loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles is maturing into a central figure for West Brom

Boss Sam Allardyce believes Ainsley Maitland-Niles will get better and better the more he plays in central midfield.

West Bromwich Albion's Ainsley Maitland-Niles
West Bromwich Albion's Ainsley Maitland-Niles

An England international, Maitland-Niles was made available for loan by Arsenal back in January with a whole host of clubs chasing his signature.

The 23-year-old has spent the majority of his time with the Gunners playing at either right full-back or wing-back.

And Southampton, Newcastle and Leicester were among the clubs who approached Arsenal hoping to sign the player back in January with a view to him being deployed in that role.

Maitland-Niles, though, believes his long-term future is in central midfield.

And he was enticed to the Baggies after being given assurances that is where he will play for Sam Allardyce’s side.

Maitland-Niles has impressed in his four outings so far, with the 23-year-old covering almost 11 kilometres in the recent win against Brighton.

But there have been one or two moments his decision making has let him down.

In the draw against Manchester United, Maitland-Niles looked to have a simple pass to play in Mbaye Diagne but the midfielder over-hit the ball.

And against Brighton he really should have scored just before half-time after being slipped through on goal by Matheus Pereira.

Allardyce believes it’s important to remember Maitland-Niles has spent a large chunk of his career playing in defence.

And he says he will become more clinical the more he plays in midfield.

“Ainsley’s game is starting to get better and better,” the boss said. “I said to him the other week when he arrived – he was dropped in a full-back role, filling in, which wasn’t his position and he never saw it as his position.

“Because he’s had many years of nearly always playing in that position and not playing where he wanted to play, other clubs have only ever seen him as a full-back and I think even England played him there.

“He wants to play in midfield for us, he’s got the energy to do and he has excellent ability with both feet.

“There’s got to be a better finishing quality about him.

“Like any attacking midfielder who plays box to box, he needs to be making assists and scoring goals – that is what he needs to keep working in.

“But by him not playing often enough in midfield, that is something that will hopefully come to him quickly.

“His overall game I’m very pleased with, hopefully he’ll just get a bit better.

“He is going to keep playing in midfield for us.

“I think the only way he’d ever play full-back would be on the back of injuries and suspensions.”

Elsewhere, Newcastle – who face Albion in a crunch relegation six-pointer on Sunday – have been rocked by a host of injuries ahead of that game.

Attacking talents Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron were both taken off during Saturday’s draw with Wolves – with the club having now confirmed they will both be out until April.

Newcastle will also be without top scorer Callum Wilson for their trip to The Hawthorns with the striker also sidelined through injury.

And that means Joelinton – who has only scored one league goal this season – is likely to lead the line for Steve Bruce’s side.

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