Martin Keown has heaped praise on Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles for his display in the Europa League last night.
The Gunners cruised to an easy win over Austrian side Rapid Vienna with the £16.2m-rated Englishman bagging an assist for Emile Smith Rowe’s goal with the game finishing 4-1.
In BT Sport’s coverage of the match, the former Reds defender claimed that the performance from the young gun looked effortless.
Keown said: “Maitland-Niles is another player that impressed me. It looked so easy for him, he has other gears to go through. He’s played in different positions, but he’s ready to launch himself into that slot. He played with a cigar.” (via BT Sports)
Should Maitland-Niles start in central midfield more often?
The Gunners were imperious form as they turned over their Europa League opponents, however, it was Maitland-Niles, who impressed in the middle of the pitch. Arsenal have struggled to find a consistent pairing in midfield this season and with the 23-year-old proving his worth, albeit against lower opposition, he has thrown himself into the mix for future Premier League games.
Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos showed their poor side when Wolves turned over the Emirates Stadium giants with pace in the final third. Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto and Adama Traore ran riot across the field in Arsenal’s defensive third with Leandro Dendoncker making late runs into the box to increase numbers and confusion within Arteta’s side.
His ability to track runners and perform the defensive side of the central midfield role is what he brings compared to the likes of Ceballos and Xhaka. As well as making the joint-most clearances, the midfielder’s heat map was a thing of beauty, spreading across almost the entire pitch as he showed sensational energy levels. He’s shown he definitely has the legs to play the role and even had the confidence to admit it in his post-match interview following last night’s victory.
Apart from Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey, as seen in recent games, Mikel Arteta really can’t call upon anyone else to replace the loss of energy and dynamism. Maitland-Niles has shown he can be the player to provide that and should get starts in the centre of the park more often.