By Josh James and Connor Armstrong
Hector Bellerin knows all about playing at full back in the Premier League from a young age, and he's delighted to see fellow academy product Ainsley Maitland-Niles following in his footsteps.
The England youth international completed 90 minutes at left back for the second time in three days in the Premier League, helping Arsenal to another clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Newcastle. After the game Bellerin said he was pleased to see Maitland-Niles take his chance.
"Ainsley has done really well," the Spanish full back told Arsenal Player. "He’s been doing a great job with the chances the boss has given him, he’s a guy that also comes from playing on the wing, he’s been on loan at different teams and finally he’s got a chance to be in the first team.
"I think he’s taken his chances really well. He’s not scared of going forward and he’s very strong defensively as well."
And while Bellerin had a fellow academy graduate alongside him in the back four, there was also one among the opposition. Newcastle midfielder Isaac Hayden was born just three days after Bellerin, and the two grew up together in the Arsenal youth setup. The two even made their first-team debuts for the Gunners in the same game – away to West Brom in September 2013.
Bellerin explains that the friendship goes back a long way: "Since I was 16. We got together playing for the under-18s and then the under-21s. It’s hard sometimes when some of your friends go to other teams but I’m very happy that he’s got to the Premier League and he’s showing his potential."
Copyright 2024 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.