Ainsley Maitland-Niles was delighted to score his first Emirates Stadium goal on Thursday, and he’s hoping to push on and compete with Hector Bellerin for starts next season.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Arsenal and Stade Rennais at Emirates Stadium on March 14, 2019, in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 14: Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Arsenal and Stade Rennais at Emirates Stadium on March 14, 2019, in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Maitland-Niles has really impressed the Arsenal supporters in the last couple of games, putting in two hard-working wing-back performances to help the team to crucial victories over Manchester United and Rennes.

Though the 21-year-old’s biggest contribution was defensive, he also added a vital early goal in the latter match to help the Gunners on the way to their comeback. After the game, he spoke to Football.London about his recent inclusion at wing-back, as well as the chance to compete with Hector Bellerin when the Spaniard returns from injury.

“I’m still adapting to [the position] but the manager and coaching staff are helping me a lot at the moment,” Maitland-Niles said. “My best qualities are going forward, creating. I’ve spoken to the manager and he seems to think the same as me.

“When Hector comes back maybe it’ll be a good challenge for me and him.
It all depends on how he comes back. Hector is a fantastic player and I wouldn’t want to force anybody out of the team, it’s more about healthy competition with him.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal celebrates with teammates Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Aaron Ramsey after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Arsenal and Stade Rennais at Emirates Stadium on March 14, 2019, in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 14: Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal celebrates with teammates Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Aaron Ramsey after scoring his team’s second goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Arsenal and Stade Rennais at Emirates Stadium on March 14, 2019, in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Maitland-Niles’ goal on Thursday wasn’t only significant for the team, but also for the player himself, given it was his first goal at the Emirates Stadium. He admitted it wasn’t a moment he has any plans to forget.

“It was a fantastic feeling to score at the Emirates for the first time, what can I say? It was an unforgettable moment,” he said. “It means a lot to me and my family. Growing up, playing for Arsenal was a dream come true. To score in such a crucial game at a crucial time is fantastic as well.”

Bizarrely, the youngster wasn’t called up for England or the England u21s over the international break. Though that will be a bit disappointing for him on a personal level, it does mean he can remain with the squad for their warm-weather training over the next two weeks, and he can fully focus on Arsenal’s end of season run in.

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.