Who's to blame for Arsenal struggles? Maitland-Niles suggests players, not Wenger

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The versatile Gunners full-back acknowledges those on the field need to shoulder as much responsibility for a testing campaign as their manager

Ainsley Maitland-Niles acknowledges that Arsenal’s underperforming players need to shoulder as much blame for a testing season as under-fire manager Arsene Wenger.

With the Gunners having struggled for consistency across 2017-18, the man at the helm has faced much of the criticism in north London.

Questions are once again being asked of Wenger’s suitability to the high-profile post after 22 years in the job, with concerns being raised as to the direction in which Arsenal are heading.

A top-four finish looks to be beyond them, while the Europa League provides a last remaining route to major silverware, and to Champions League football next year, following a disappointing Carabao Cup final showing.

Maitland-Niles concedes that those on the field need to accept more responsibility for the struggles, telling Sky Sports: "When he [Wenger] talks about football and how our team is doing, it's solely his opinion and what he thinks on the team. It's nothing to do with things that are coming from the press. He's very straightforward in what he wants us to do and he tells us that.

"I don't think we take enough [blame]. We should also take some of the blame because we are the ones on the pitch. He only picks the team, so that's how far his judgement goes, but us on the pitch I think we need to take more responsibility and really fight and stand up for our club.

"He's a great manager. He's got a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge, and a big personality as well if he's taking a lot of the blame."

Arsenal’s lowest point came during a run of four straight defeats across all competitions from February 22 to March 4.

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Maitland-Niles was benched during that sequence, so should not be placed in that particular firing line.

He has, however, made 23 appearances across a breakthrough campaign at Emirates Stadium and knows that collective standards have not been high enough.

The Gunners can keep pushing for a top-four finish, though, and have made it through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League to have continental glory edging into view.

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