It is common knowledge to any Gunner worth their salt that we have a special crop of youngsters coming through.
Emile Smith-Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Jo Willock, Rob Holding, and a few others have risen to prominence, taken the opportunity given to them with both hands and remained in the squad and Emery’s reckoning deservedly.
One though, deserves a special mention.
He has been played out of position. He has flitted in and out of the side, unable to gain any regular match rhythm. He has been vilified by a section of fans and branded as a kid that doesn’t make the grade after some shaky performances.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles however, has kept his head held high.
This kid has perhaps the coolest temperament not only amongst his fellow youth brethren, but also in the squad. His ice-cold penalty in our shootout loss against Liverpool indicated that not only did he have the strength to take one, but also the level-headedness to put it away comfortably.
He has been given a midfield spot in our Europa League run, and occasionally he has not delivered the match that he would have liked. Look at his willingness to get the ball though, see how hungry he is for the ball.
Above all else, you can see that he doesn’t stop. His engine is quite incredible, and a midfield berth is the right spot for him. Could Maitland-Niles be a defensive midfield cover that we need?
With Lucas Torriera showing a tendency to rove forward, and no one to replace the Uruguayan, Maitland-Niles could take that spot.
Some people will doubt the player, but anyone who watches him closely can see his close-quarter control is good enough to deal with pressure, his tackling is more than adequate and his defensive nous allows him to position himself well.
We could mould this kid into something that we truly need, rather than the utility player he has been in the past. He has the tools at his disposal and what is so important, is his old head on young shoulders.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, just watch him prove his worth.