Mikel Arteta has explained what’s changed with Ainsley Maitland-Niles in recent months, to go from almost leaving to his MOTM performance on Sunday.
With Thomas Partey absent on Sunday through injury, Arsenal had to turn to Ainsley Maitland-Niles for just his second Premier League start of the season.
The midfielder wasn’t entirely without match practice, having come off the bench four times since his last league start and playing the League Cup fourth round match against Leeds United a week earlier. But it was still a big test for him to step up.
In the end, Maitland-Niles won Sky Sports’ Man of the Match award for his performance in the 1-0 win.
Speaking afterwards, Mikel Arteta admitted he’s pleased with the 24-year-old’s progress since his public social media plea at the end of the transfer window.
“I see a different player in terms of his urgency, his commitment and the clarity in his play and purpose,” Arteta said. “Since we made the decision I was clear with what I was seeing, I wanted him to stay because he was going to be useful.
“He has a huge talent which is he is versatile enough to adapt to any position on the pitch.”
As for what exactly has changed with the player, Arteta had plenty of encouraging things to say.
“When I see him in training sessions, when I see how he prepares, asking the questions he’s asking, the level of attention to everything you talk through, his response is immediate.
“He’s a really clever, intelligent boy and I think he has needed to transmit that and how much he cares with his body language and his determination, and I think he’s come a long way.”
It’s good to hear that Maitland-Niles has changed and improved his attitude behind the scenes, and he seemed to be reaping the rewards of that change in his performance on Sunday. I think we’d all love to see him continuing to push on in the coming months.