Interview

Ainsley - What I've learnt from each position

It has been quite a journey for Ainsley Maitland-Niles: from striker, to winger, to central midfielder, to now playing on the left side of our defence.

The 20-year-old has made a big impression since breaking into the first team, but what lessons has he picked up along the way from his early days as a forward to where he is now?

"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," he added. "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."