After finding himself in the first-team wilderness in recent weeks, Ainsley Maitland-Niles made his return to competitive action against West Ham on Monday night and produced a typically assured performance.
The 22-year-old found himself on the bench against at the Hammers at the beginning of the evening, but starting right-back Hector Bellerin pulled out of the game during the warm-up with a suspected injury. In came Maitland-Niles, and the academy product showed he can be a more than capable deputy for the Spaniard.
As per Sofascore, he made a joint team-high three tackles, made three clearances, won eight ground duels and had an impressive 100 touches of the ball. It was a display oozing in poise and calmness, and one that saw Arsenal fans flood to Twitter to voice their thoughts on the ace.
Maitland Niles is our best RB, he needs to work on his awareness but he’s not very far from being a top RB, already better than Bissaka.
— Abstrakt (@panda_arsenal) 9 December 2019
Got to talk about Maitland Niles as well because he has been arguably our best RB at the club for all of 2019 and makes so much more solid down that right side
— Gooner Michael (@MichaelMarta99) 9 December 2019
Let’s take a moment to applaud Maitland Niles and Callum chambers were superb
— mhd nazim (@mhdnazim05) 9 December 2019
Special shout out to Ainsley Maitland Niles… He had a pretty solid game last night. Same applies to Chambers
— Zisi (@Xhakaszn2019) 10 December 2019
Also Maitland-Niles masterclass
— DonDaddyD #VoteLabour (@Dondaddyd) 10 December 2019
Some Gunners fans were quick to praise his use of the ball, and insisted that his calmness under pressure meant the north London side could play out from the back better and thus open the game up.
Maitland niles on the other hand, quality, you don’t know how much better we are with him in the ATTACKING sense with him and he was solid defensively as well.#WHUARS
— JZA (@job1905afc) 9 December 2019
Can we appreciate the shift Maitland-Niles put it today? He wasn’t scared to drive the ball forward and as a result played less back passes compared to Bellerin #WHUARS
— papichulo (@samuel_goldfish) 9 December 2019
no one is giving credit for Maitland Niles whos 1-2 at the back under pressure was exactly what Emery was missing to build properly from the back
didnt it again with Pepe goal
— koma (@koma_iha) 9 December 2019
With Bellerin still trying to fully recover from his knee injury that ruled him out for an extended period of time, Maitland-Niles’ performance against West Ham showed Freddie Ljungberg that he can be trusted with the right-back berth. He gave the Gunners a good sense of balance between going forward and tracking back, and the Arsenal boss will surely feel tempted to keep the same starting line-up that finally gave the club a win.