Europa League obligations forced Arsene Wenger to field a weakened lineup upon his final trip to Old Trafford as Arsenal manager, but the Frenchman did his best to turn the situation into a positive – offering Gunners fans a glimpse into the future and what the starting XI could look like in the years to come.
Indeed, the average age of the north London outfit’s starting XI was just 24 and it even included a Premier League debutant at the heart of defence alongside Calum Chambers – who isn’t exactly long in the tooth either.
Earlier this week, we asked Arsenal fans to issue player ratings for each of those involved in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester United and perhaps unsurprisingly, it was two youngsters who received the highest average ratings…
Maitland-Niles’ best position remains a little unclear, having spent periods of his short Arsenal career as a wing-back, an attacking midfielder and a holding player.
But he was utilised as a largely orthodox central midfielder against United and that appeared to get the best out of him, particularly in terms of his economic use of the ball and his willingness to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, two midfielders who far exceed him in terms of experience and natural power.
Barring United’s two goals, it was a perfect debut for Arsenal’s promising defensive prospect Konstantinos Mavropanos. The 20-year-old looked calm and composed yet also intimidating at the back, enjoying the physical battle with Romelu Lukaku particularly.
He finished up with the joint-most interceptions and blocks of any Arsenal player, and even overshadowed Chambers alongside him for much of the game. It’s still early days but Mavropanos and Maitland-Niles both look to have bright futures with the Gunners.
View the results in full below…