Arsene Wenger has heaped praise on Ainsley Maitland-Niles ahead of Arsenal’s Europa League clash against BATE Borisov on Thursday night and revealed where he thinks the 20-year-old plays best.
Wenger believes that Maitland-Niles’ best position is in central midfield.
“His best position is central defensive midfielder,” Wenger said during his pre-BATE Borisov presser. “He has great quality, he can steal the ball without making fouls. I believe he is ready to play. He has a great future.”
The fact that Maitland-Niles is actually more of a central midfielder than wide man is hardly new information since the 20-year-old regularly stars there for the Gunners’ youth side.
Last season, the England youth international made 12 Premier League 2 appearances in central and defensive midfield and just out to the right. Therefore, it’s probably safe to say that’s where he’s most experienced.
However, the teenager has shown his versatility and ability to adapt to new challenges a few times.
While Maitland-Niles was rusty in pre-season and many noticed he needed to work on his touch, playing as a wing-back against Doncaster Rovers in the League Cup he was great.
The starlet made his Premier League debut last season when he came on for one minute during Arsenal’s 4-1 win away to Sunderland. He also made three appearances in the FA Cup and three in the League Cup as well.
This term, he’s already come on for the final minute against West Brom and played 90 minutes in both the Europa League and League Cup.
As Wenger says, I’m sure Maitland-Niles has a great future.