Maitland-Niles’ journey from striker to left back has taught him a number of the skills that he uses today.
Maitland-Niles is one of the most versatile members of the Arsenal squad, having played in midfield and at left back this season.
As a youngster, he started off as a striker, but was gradually moved back into deeper positions as his game developed.
It’s a journey that taught him many things.
“It’s nice to have that sort of responsibility [as a striker in my early days], that ‘Ainsley’s going to get you goals’” he told Arsenal Player.
“I did that most years but then there was a year where I was a bit too small and people started growing quickly. Then they decided to put me on the wing.
“It’s just more of a movement thing [out there] and trying to off-balance defenders so that you can get behind them. I was always quick so it was just about using your brain more.
“Me and the coaches then had a few discussions where they believed that I had enough technique and some of my talents were wasted out wide when the game goes through the middle. They took a gamble with me by deciding to play me in midfield for a few games.
“It paid off, I had a few good games in there and they saw me start to grow physically. My footballing intelligence started to get better too and I sat down with Carl Laraman and Steve Gatting, and we made a plan on how I could develop as a central midfielder.
“Being a wide player is similar to playing as a left back or left wing-back.
“Central midfield is obviously about the technique and awareness, so you always know what’s going on around you. When I go up front, or around those sorts of areas, setting people up, my end product needs to be right.”
The 20-year-old emerged into Arsenal’s youth teams as a winger, and found himself playing there when he went on loan to Ipswich during the 2015/16 season.
The skills he learned in that position carried over when he started playing wing back and full back.
He always looks a threat when he carries the ball forward, and knows how trick his way past defenders.
Central midfield, however, is where most fans want to see him in the future.
Many feel he could be a all-round midfielder and that he deserves a chance to play there after his good form this season.
After a string of first team appearances over Christmas, Maitland-Niles has found himself on the bench more often.
At the moment, he should take any first team chance that comes his way, no matter what position he has to play.