Arsene Wenger has always made a point of giving at least one youngster from the Arsenal Academy a chance to join the Gunners first team, and it looks like this season’s graduate is Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has played 8 games for our second string side in the Europa League and the League Cup. Now he has been promoted to the real first-team and has played in our last two games against West Ham and Newcastle, and Wenger has been rightly impressed by his performances. “I believe he is the future.” Le Prof said.
“He can play left back, right back, central midfield. Of the three positions, maybe the least natural for him is left back, but he adapts very quickly and is a good defender. He has that sense of one against one, he is very strong, he is very quick, he has very quick recovery runs when he comes back. He has some aspects to learn: experience and he has to work on his heading. But overall, what he has done in the last three days is positive.”
It is quite possible that Wenger will play him again tonight in our Caraboa Cup game against the Hammers again, or he may give him a rest and save him to face Liverpool on Friday, but the boss was still quick to recognise his improvement. Wenger told Arsenal.com: ““Certainly his focus is better,” Wenger told Arsenal.com. “I think at the start of the season, the fact that I used him in defensive positions maybe made him realise that there’s no opening where he dreams to play but there could be an opening where he doesn’t dream to play.
“It takes you a while to adapt and to realise sometimes as well that you have the needed qualities to play in these positions. He is thinking like a defender and that’s what you want from him.
“It’s the quality of concentration. He has huge physical qualities as well. His recovery runs are good, he’s good in one against ones. Of course the challenge is to continue to develop, to continue to improve. He has a lot to do but when you get a chance in life, take it. That’s what you want from him now.”
The 20 year-old also said that his time on loan at Ipswich also helped tremendously with his development, and Wenger explained why he thought it would be a good idea. “Yes, because you know well the infrastructure here,” he said. “It’s super-developed and maybe sometimes people are overprotected in a competitive world. A competitive world is a rough world, it’s a world where you need to fight against internal opposition and as well outside competition.
“Sometimes when they go to the Championship, you can be tempted to think ‘I’m at Arsenal, so I’ll always be good somewhere else’. You go to the Championship and realise that good players are everywhere.
“You have to add the fighting to your qualities and that’s what he means with maturing there. He realised that in the Championship it’s very difficult and in every game you have to be ready for a fight.”
Well he seems to have carried on impressing even when put into the Gunners first team. It looks like we may have yet another youngster that we can rely on for a long time ahead of us.