Ainsley Maitland-Niles has firmly established himself as a key member of our first-team squad this season.
The 21-year-old has made 20 appearances for Unai Emery’s side, scoring his first senior goal against Liverpool before netting in our crucial Europa League win over Rennes at Emirates Stadium.
It’s been quite the journey for our Hale End graduate, who says his football education in England’s capital city gave him the perfect platform to succeed.
“I grew up in east London and I went to school in Newbury Park,” he told Arsenal Player. “A lot of kids in London play football and grow up loving football. It’s a passion that you’re either born with or you’re not.
“There is a certain style to London football. I think we’re very energetic and I think it’s a physical game as well. In the parks, the cages, places like that, there were a lot of people sporting their team colours and also their Sunday league colours from whoever they’d played for before. They wanted people to know who they were.
“It’s a very big culture in London and a lot of the youth that I know and get to speak to are trying to take the same path as me, to start from young and carrying on. Football in London will never die and that’s a great thing.”
Maitland-Niles has been in our squad for home wins over Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Fulham, and says there is no greater feeling than beating another London club.
“When you’re playing in a London derby at the Emirates, the fans are rocking,” he said. “The energy’s better and it’s a big occasion for the players on the pitch. It’s to us to go and deliver. I like them, I like the pressure. It’s an occasion to turn up for a big game and make a statement, so why not?
“We know that we should be going into the game and winning those matches for our fans, for our families and for each other on the pitch. Winning those games and derbies is an amazing feeling. You’ve got the bragging rights until next time and it sets up the occasion for the next game as well, because you’ve got something to prove to everyone.”
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