One of the biggest challenges for Leeds United is retaining a squad that is thin enough to suit Marcelo Bielsa’s desire, but also fit enough to handle the incredible inteisity desired. The biggest challenge for the Leeds directorship, then, is finding players who are affordable, available, and ambitious enough to join the Leeds project. One name that appears to tick all of those boxes, then, is currently at West Bromwich Albion on loan from Arsenal.
23-year-old midfield utility man Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been noted as a key transfer target for Leeds this coming summer. The player would be arriving with the capability of filling numerous roles in the team, including playing at full-back, wide midfield, and in the centre. He brings an enthusiasm and energy to the midfield and would provide Leeds with another intriguing long-term midfield option.
Some have even suggested that his arrival might offer Leeds a solution to a long-term hole in the squad. When Leeds sold on midfield prospect Ronaldo Vieira, it was left to the likes of Kalvin Phillips to step up and take on the mantle. Despite doing so with great aplomb, midfield numbers have been surprisingly short in recent times. This has even see the likes of Stuart Dallas playing in the middle of the pitch at times.
Maitland-Niles will surely be away from West Brom and also from Arsenal. The former are sure to be relegated, and the latter seem keen on raising funds to go for more ambitious targets on the continent. This, then, could be to the benefit of Leeds; a player who perfectly suits their style and system, available for a good price, and likely to be desperate to get the chance to play at a higher level than he is presently.
Could Ainsley Maitland-Niles make an impact at Elland Road?
Almost certainly. His high intensity style would be a good fit for the high press, box-to-box nature of the entire Leeds team. On top of that, he’s capable of playing equally well in various positions, something that Bielsa is known to value in a player. His ability to take on various roles and move from position to position without losing any of his impact is a huge boon for a Leeds side who need a bit more depth in key areas.
His ability to move with the ball, keep up with the pace of play, and play his part in passing combinations would offer Leeds something they really need. Add in his strength in the tackle and his desire to press, and he would make a fine addition at wide midfield, centre midfield, or full-back for Leeds when the opportunity calls.
Though unlikely to ever settle down into one position entirely, the England youth international has more than enough about him to play most minutes due to his ability to play at a high level in various areas of th pitch. Without doubt, he offers an intriguing possibility for Leeds.