Ainsley Maitland-Niles

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Interview

‘He realised that you have to be ready to fight'

Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ star is on the rise, so much so that the Carabao/Europa regular from earlier this season is fast becoming a fixture in our Premier League side.

Central midfield is the 20-year-old’s position of choice, but the choice is Arsene Wenger’s when it comes to first-team matters and the boss has found space for Maitland-Niles in his back line.

The versatile youngster has risen to the challenge, so much so that he was one of our star performers in the Premier League games against West Ham and Newcastle - despite playing at left back.

“Certainly his focus is better,” Wenger told Arsenal.com. “I think at the start of the season, the fact that I used him in defensive positions maybe made him realise that there’s no opening where he dreams to play but there could be an opening where he doesn’t dream to play.

“It takes you a while to adapt and to realise sometimes as well that you have the needed qualities to play in these positions. He is thinking like a defender and that’s what you want from him.

“It’s the quality of concentration. He has huge physical qualities as well. His recovery runs are good, he’s good in one against ones. Of course the challenge is to continue to develop, to continue to improve. He has a lot to do but when you get a chance in life, take it. That’s what you want from him now.”

Maitland-Niles said recently that his loan spell at Ipswich made him mature and made him “a man”. Wenger understands why.

“Yes, because you know well the infrastructure here,” he said. “It’s super-developed and maybe sometimes people are overprotected in a competitive world. A competitive world is a rough world, it’s a world where you need to fight against internal opposition and as well outside competition.

“Sometimes when they go to the Championship, you can be tempted to think ‘I’m at Arsenal, so I’ll always be good somewhere else’. You go to the Championship and realise that good players are everywhere.

“You have to add the fighting to your qualities and that’s what he means with maturing there. He realised that in the Championship it’s very difficult and in every game you have to be ready for a fight.”

Press conference

Wenger - I believe Ainsley is the future

Ainsley Maitland-Niles made just his second Premier League start on Saturday, three days after his first, and Arsène Wenger was impressed with what he saw from the youngster.

The manager spoke to the media after our 1-0 win over Newcastle, and praised the 20 year old's contribution at left back, while also assessing Jack Wilshere's performance, the quality of our finishing and his thoughts on Rafael Benitez's job.

on Ainsley Maitland-Niles…
I believe he is the future. He can play left back, right back, central midfield. Of the three positions, maybe the least natural for him is left back, but he adapts very quickly and is a good defender. He has that sense of one against one, he is very strong, he is very quick, he has very quick recovery runs when he comes back. He has some aspects to learn: experience and he has to work on his heading. But overall, what he has done in the last three days is positive.

on Jack Wilshere completing another 90 minutes…
It’s positive. I believe that he has the basic stamina, he is like the rest of the team, he was a bit less sharp than on Wednesday night but overall what was very positive was that he didn’t weaken at all and he had this presence and his dribbling going forward. He did a good defensive job as well and overall, I’d say it’s positive that he can produce two games of that quality in four days. Let’s not forget that Wednesday night to Saturday afternoon is two and a half days, so that’s the most difficult.

on whether the game was hard work…
I would say we had plenty of chances we didn’t take. You could see that we wanted sometimes to force it a little bit, the fact that we didn’t score recently, the chances we had, played a little bit on our mind. But I would have loved it to have been a bit more comfortable on the scoreline but what was even more important was to get the three points and that’s what we did. Overall we had a serious game and you could see that we played three games in six days and the third game is a bit more difficult physically.

on Newcastle threatening to equalise late on…
We knew before the game it was a game where we had to be well-organised on set pieces, long balls and counter-attacks but we are an offensive team. I think we had plenty, plenty of chances but as long as you are at 1-0 you know a moment in the game comes where you are under threat and they have a chance. It is like that in the Premier League. When you look around, Chelsea played at home against Southampton and won 1-0. It is their third game. We are the only team basically that played Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday.

on whether the problem is the quality of the chances or the finishing itself…
I would say it’s the finishing. The quality of the chances was quite good.

on Rafael Benitez…
I think he is doing a good job because Newcastle is not one of the teams who invested hugely when they came up to complete at the top. So I believe the team overall look to me to be organised, they look mobile, and look to have a good spirit. The job of a manager is to take the best from the potential of his team and I believe Benitez does that very well.

Interview

‘That’s just the start of what’s to come’

It has been a difficult week to be an Arsenal fan, but Mesut Ozil’s superb volley ensured we ended it with all three points against Newcastle United.

The victory saw us return to winning ways after back-to-back draw at Southampton and West Ham United, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles believes the result will give us confidence over this busy run of fixtures.

“That’s just the start of what’s to come for us,” the 20-year-old said. “We need to carry on with the good performances, stay strong at the back and not concede.

“We made it a bit harder for ourselves in the last 20 minutes because we should’ve tried to keep the ball more, but Mesut’s goal was fantastic. He’s deserved it because he’s been playing so well recently. To top it off with a goal like that is really good for him.”

It was Maitland-Niles’ second Premier League start after Wednesday’s draw at West Ham United, and the midfielder was pleased with his performance - even if it did come at left back.

“The fans were brilliant today because they made a lot of noise,” he said. “It was just to be at home, playing for Arsenal doing what I do best. I feel comfortable wherever I play on the pitch and of course the fans made it easier for me as well, so I’m thankful for that.”