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Arsenal youngster Maitland-Niles relishing utility role

Arsenal youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles has opened up on his role as a utility.

The Englishman has played as striker, winger, central midfielder, and most recently, at left-back in his short career.

This season, the 20-year-old has played soundly filling in for injured duo Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal. And after making his debut as a 17-year-old, Maitland-Niles is happy to be developing at the club he's been with since the age of six.

"It's nice to have that sort of responsibility [as a striker in my early days], that 'Ainsley's going to get you goals'" he told Arsenal Player. "I did that most years but then there was a year where I was a bit too small and people started growing quickly. Then they decided to put me on the wing.

"It's just more of a movement thing [out there] and trying to off-balance defenders so that you can get behind them. I was always quick so it was just about using your brain more.

"Me and the coaches then had a few discussions where they believed that I had enough technique and some of my talents were wasted out wide when the game goes through the middle. They took a gamble with me by deciding to play me in midfield for a few games.

"It paid off, I had a few good games in there and they saw me start to grow physically. My footballing intelligence started to get better too and I sat down with Carl Laraman and Steve Gatting, and we made a plan on how I could develop as a central midfielder.

"Being a wide player is similar to playing as a left back or left wing-back," he added. "Central midfield is obviously about the technique and awareness, so you always know what's going on around you. When I go up front, or around those sorts of areas, setting people up, my end product needs to be right."

About the author

Freddie Taylor

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