Mikel Arteta defends 22-year-old’s display in Arsenal’s draw with Sheffield United

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta refuses to blame Ainsley Maitland-Niles for his role in Sheffield United's equaliser on Saturday

Mikel Arteta (Photo: Arsenal Media / Screengrab)
Mikel Arteta (Photo: Arsenal Media / Screengrab)

Mikel Arteta refused to blame Arsenal’s makeshift full-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles for Sheffield United’s equaliser after John Fleck’s late goal secured a 1-1 draw at The Emirates on Saturday afternoon.

The Gunners appeared to be heading for three points after Brazilian teenager Gabriel Martinelli broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time with a clinical finish to net his second Premier League goal.

Arsenal produced a performance worthy of a win but the Gunners were unable to extend their lead in the absence of their suspended captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Fleck managed to fire past Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno with seven minutes to go as Maitland-Niles was unable to block the Sheffield United midfielder’s attempt.

Maitland-Niles and Bukayo Saka were asked to deputise in full-back roles in the absence of Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac for the visit of the Blades.

Speaking at his post-match media conference at The Emirates on Saturday evening, Arteta refused to blame Maitland-Niles for Sheffield United’s leveller.

Arteta said: “Obviously, when we are analysing the opponents and scenarios that are happening on the pitch, we have to try to correct and help the players as much as possible.

“We can ask Ainsley a lot of things, but he’s not a full-back. Bukayo is not a full-back.

“They’re trying to adapt as quickly as possible and they try to help the team as much as possible to do that, but these things are going to happen.”

Arsenal remain in tenth place following their 1-1 draw with Sheffield United after the Gunners missed out on the chance to close the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Chelsea FC.

Arsenal are two points adrift of eighth-placed Tottenham Hotspur as Arteta’s men look to restore some pride.

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