Danny Murphy was impressed by youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who made his first Premier League start for Arsenal against West Ham on Wednesday.
Although Arsenal couldn’t get the win they wanted against the Hammers, they did manage to keep a clean sheet, and Maitland-Niles created more than a few chances with his crossing.
The 20-year-old was one of the team’s better performers on the night, and Danny Murphy took note of his positive full league debut.
“He impressed me massively,” Murphy said on Match of the Day, reports the Daily Star. “He played left-back in a four, Arsenal changed it and I still don’t know if he’s left-footed or right-footed.
“He was so comfortable on both, calm. Every time he got in these areas he didn’t panic and he always picked out a decent ball.”
“Defensively we didn’t see him too much today because they dominated the game for long periods but he didn’t look uncomfortable at any time. His pace was good, he never dived in too often in terms of going to ground so I was really impressed with him.
“Each time he got up there I was thinking come on can he do it again. He just calmly takes his time. I haven’t seen enough of him to say if this is his best position or if he can play as right-back as well but tonight, left-back in a four, he played really really well.”
Murphy’s right to highlight that the Arsenal academy graduate picked out some good balls throughout the match. In fact, he completed more crosses than anyone else on the team, and that was largely because he kept getting in good positions all game.
Maitland-Niles was strong defensively too on the day. Other than committing a foul or two, you could hardly point to anything he did wrong at that end of the pitch.
There are still some obvious disadvantages for the England u21 international playing at left-back, however. He’s right-footed, so getting to the line and putting a cross in becomes difficult – not that it stopped him on Wednesday.
The defensive side of his game is good, and the youngster is even better in possession. Maitland-Niles has proven himself an adequate back-up to Sead Kolašinac. Hopefully he’ll have a chance to play a more central midfielder role before long to prove himself there.