Arsene’s legacy continues to weigh heavily. That is part of Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles knows that all too well.
“It puts a lot of pressure, people have to understand that we are a work in progress,” explains the midfielder.
“People need time to develop and build confidence. We work hard to give fans the fun and happiness they used to have. ‘
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has supported Arsenal’s rising stars to become key players
Eddie Nketiah (left), Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson (right) have made their breakthrough
Maitland-Niles is anchored in the rich traditions of Arsenal.
From watching Champions League games at Highbury to playing for legendary manager Arsene Wenger and training with current boss Mikel Arteta, the 22-year-old saw his share. He’s not ready, of course.
Despite his young age, Maitland-Niles emerges as the elder statesman of an exciting collection of academy talent who promises to be at the heart of Arteta’s revolution.
Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson have all moved up the ranks at the club’s famed Hale End Academy to become key members of the first team this season.
Mikel Arteta has appealed to many young people, who may be at the heart of his revolution
Great things are expected from Emile Smith-Rowe, who is currently on loan from Huddersfield for next season.
“I was five when I was scouted. I remember going to Hale End and a group of 90 players playing games where people with clipboards took notes, ”he recalls.
‘The traditions of the club are in us from an early age, which can give us (academy players) an advantage.
“I think that’s probably going to give us an extra 15 percent because we know what it’s about, we’ve been doing the same thing here over and over and over for years.
Maitland-Niles, depicted with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, hopes for a home-grown generation
‘It is certainly possible that we can have a generation from our own soil. The players have the talent, they have the physicality, they have the thinking power to do it.
“It’s about whether the manager has the confidence of the players to play them all at once and whether he wants to take that big risk.
“Maybe there will be a few mistakes, a few points here and there at the beginning, but in the long run I think it will be very helpful because these players have been playing together for years and they know each other inside out.
“It’s incredible to see five or six of the same age flying through in the same year. Especially if the right manager wants to play you and you want to trust.
Arteta is likely to have little wiggle room in this summer’s transfer market
“We push each other every day as we’ve been for the past three or four years. Be together every day. Why should we stop now? ‘
Arteta is counting on them not to stop. With little money in the Emirates, the Arsenal manager’s room for maneuver in the transfer market will be severely limited.
That’s where the versatility of Maitland-Niles will come in handy. He has made no secret that his preferred position is in central midfield.
But since he debuted in a 4-1 Champions League win over Galatasaray in December 2014, Maitland-Niles has played in midfield, right back, left back and wing.
Maitland-Niles has explained that he is happy to be on the right back ‘weekly’ if necessary
He even joined the Arsenal academy as a striker before former youth coach Carl Laraman brought him to midfield.
In an earlier interview, Maitland-Niles seemed to say he didn’t want to play as a right back – a feature that former manager Unai Emery regularly uses.
In this interview, however, he likes to set the record straight: ‘I would play right back every week if I had to. I am not really busy.
The most important thing is to be out with the team and help them win matches. That’s where some people misjudged what I said earlier. They misunderstood what I said.
But the versatile youngster has also admitted that his preferred position is in central midfield
“I didn’t mean I don’t want to play there, because I would like to complete and participate and do the job anytime, anywhere.
“Of course I prefer to play in midfield, but that does not mean that I don’t want to play a right back or that I will not do the work there if the manager asks me.
“When the manager says to me,” Ains, you have to go into this game, I put on the gloves and I’m ready to rock. “
While he’s at it, Maitland-Niles handles reports that he was suspended by Arteta earlier this season for signing up late for training.
Maitland-Niles handled reports that he was fired by Arteta after reporting late for training
“It doesn’t bother me what people call me because I think management knows itself,” he explained.
“Okay, well, I was late, maybe once in this manager’s time. It was a mistake, I spoke to the manager and raised my hands and took the consequences. I haven’t been late since then.
“It was more of a learning experience and holding myself accountable as a man.”
That kind of honesty will prove Maitland-Niles right. Arteta changes the philosophy at Arsenal and Maitland-Niles is keen to become a driving force behind that revolution.
The Arsenal star has also thought about the change in training from the office of Arsene Wenger
And the midfielder admits that he saw it himself during his training days with his now boss.
Maitland-Niles said, “When training (under Wenger), when you’re young, you don’t want to tackle one of the star players at the time and they end up injured.
“But now they want you to go 100 percent all the time and it’s hard to really show certain qualities back then with all those great players playing.
“You are very afraid of injuring them. You do see a few challenges flying in and it’s not nice to see when you’re on the receiving end. ‘