Ashley Maitland-Niles has become a first-team regular in recent months and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger hailed him as ‘the future’, but does he deserve to be first-choice?
The young defender has impressed heavily since breaking into Wenger’s key plans, and the youngster has spoken out about his emergence through the ranks.
“Even before I was playing full back, I used to train with the first team at full back when the boss called me over,” Maitland-Niles told Arsenal Player.
“It just showed that he really believed in me already, so I just thought I had to take some stuff on in case I needed it in the future. That’s the type of person I am. I wouldn’t look at the negatives like, ‘Oh I don’t want to play at full back’, I would always try to take something out of the session. I did learn a lot.
“Per’s just been saying for me to keep my focus at all times. I should always keep in constant communication with my centre back. When it was with Rob [Holding] either he would go and I’d drop or I would go and he’d drop. It was just about winning the ball.
“I’ve been focusing on [improving my heading too] and getting up, the timing and heading the ball. I do have an alright leap but it’s just about timing, keeping my eye on the ball and then wanting to win the headers against the bigger strikers.”
The defender has been hailed as the future of the club recently, but is he deserving of his new role?
Sead Kolasinac joined the club on a free transfer last summer, and quickly became a fans favourite with a number of passionate, hard-fought and impressive displays, and was seen to have brought the type of fight needed to bring some guile to our first-team.
The wing-back has since found himself wanting, with the former youth product displacing him as first-choice, but which defender is worthy of being first-choice? Does Wenger prefer youth to experience or is Maitland-Niles simply better?