Ainsley Maitland-Niles was very impressive against Chelsea on Wednesday night, catching the eyes of fans, pundits and his own manager with his performance.
Arsene Wenger told Arsenal.com that despite the 20-year-old’s one defensive mistake, he did very well. He said: “[Maitland-Niles] had a big performance today. What he has to learn is to keep that focus, urgency and concentration for 95 minutes because on the second goal he was a bit caught. Overall, though, I thought he was remarkable.”
Wenger’s words are backed up by the statistics. Maitland-Niles made six tackles against the defending Premier League Champions, including one as the last man. He also made two clearances, and won nine out of his twelve duels. In possession, he completed 88% of his passes, created one chance, and completed three of his four attempted dribbles.
In fact, according to Whoscored, he was Arsenal’s man-of-the-match. Only Eden Hazard got a higher match rating across the two teams. Not only that, but pundits such as Gary Lineker shared Wenger’s enthusiasm for the youngster.
Lineker tweeted that he was “really impressed” with the performance, as the academy graduate showed a lot of maturity. If he’s even impressing ex-Tottenham players, he must be doing something right.
Really impressed by Maitland-Niles. Plays with an assured calmness and maturity that’s way beyond his 20 years. #player
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 3, 2018
Maitland-Niles also won over some Arsenal fans who were unsure about Wenger leaving Sead Kolasinac out for him recently. They all agreed the Englishman didn’t look out of place at all in such a big game:
Maitland-Niles is making playing in these big games look effortless. He’s playing like he’s been playing here for years. One for the future for sure.
— P¹⁸ (@RedLacazette9) January 3, 2018
I really hope that Maitland-Niles’ mistake for the goal doesn’t kill his confidence. Thought he was outstanding overall. Solid defensively, calm on the ball & combined well with teammates. Really looks like a top, top talent.
— Patrick Timmons (@PatrickTimmons1) January 3, 2018
Whatever Maitland-Niles' best position is, he should be starting in it every week. He's so cool.
— Paddy (@VieiraPaddy) January 3, 2018
Maitland-Niles makes Football look so easy. The youngster is just having fun and enjoying himself. Such a joy to watch. Oh! He's so good when defending on a one-on-one situation.
— Danny Welbeck (@WelBeast) January 3, 2018
Hopefully the midfielder-turned-left-back can build on the best of his performance, work on his one mistake, and push on in the next weeks and months.