Ainsley Maitland-Niles continued his steady rise from the academy to the first team with his fourth appearance of the season on Thursday.
Ahead of the game he talked about how it’s all going for him.
Maitland-Niles received his third start of 2017/18 this week, and has played every minute of Arsenal’s Europa League and League Cup campaigns. Ainsley says he hasn’t reached his goals just yet though, telling the official club YouTube channel: “Right now, I’m still on the way to where I want to be, but I have come a long way. I feel I’m ready for first team football.
“I’m still young, I’ve got time to develop still, and I just thank the manager for letting me play.”
The 20-year-old talked about the pride he has representing the Gunners, saying: “The walk down the hallway to the first team dressing room is a nervous one, but also a very proud moment in your career.
“It would mean everything to me for me to step out every week playing for Arsenal. I’ve dreamed of it since I was a little boy and I hope that it comes true.”
Despite playing in a bit of an unusual position out at left wing-back, Maitland-Niles has been solid in his Europa League appearances so far. He’s completed 87% of his passes, created two chances, won two-thirds of his aerial duels, despite not being the tallest at 5’10”, and has made seven interceptions and seven clearances in those two games.
If he keeps showing that he can adapt to the roles he’s given, Ainsley will become a very well-rounded player, and may start to get more of those first-team opportunities he’s dreaming about, especially in the league, where he’s only played one minute so far this season.
All the England u20 international can do is keep working hard in training and taking his chances on the pitch. Alex Iwobi has shown that if you take your chances, eventually you’ll get into Wenger’s good books, and league starts will follow.