Ainsley Maitland-Niles insists that he wants to surpass any player he’s compared to – even Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira.
Maitland-Niles’ rapid rise at Arsenal over the last year hasn’t gone unnoticed. The 20-year-old has been compared to numerous midfielders, including Gunners legend Vieira. And the youngster is keen to live up to expectations.
“I’d say I’m more of a box-to-box midfielder but the boss sees me in more of a Coquelin role, holding midfield and trying to break up the play,” he told Arsenal Player. “It’s about trying to keep the ball and scoring the odd goal here and there.
“I believe I could play as a traditional English No 4, an English No 8, anywhere around that middle part of the pitch. I’ve had a lot of things on Twitter comparing me to Patrick Vieira you know.
“I do see why they say that because he was good at reading the game, very good technically, a great passer and he’d love a challenge as well. I’m not shy of one either. Whoever anyone wants to compare me to, I’d always look to surpass them. Bring on the challenge really!”
He’s no longer just a fringe player; he’s become an established member of Arsene Wenger’s starting XI. And although some of this is partly because Sead Kolasinac has been sidelined with an ankle injury, Maitland-Niles is currently one of the only Gunners playing as if he cares.
What’s even more exciting is that Wenger has been playing the young midfielder as a wing-back, which isn’t his favoured position. When the England u21 international gets a chance to star in a central role, I’m sure we’ll see him flourish.
Perhaps this is why it doesn’t look as if Francis Coquelin will be replaced after his sudden move to Valencia…