Arsenal star Ainsley Maitland-Niles enjoyed a stellar display during a 1-0 victory against Watford on Sunday afternoon.
With midfield duo Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka both out, Maitland-Niles was handed a chance alongside Albert Sambi Lokonga in the centre of the park.
The English international thrived in his preferred role, completing 100% of his attempted dribbles, winning eight duels and registering five tackles as Sky Sports pundit and former Arsenal striker Alan Smith named him as the man of the match for his all-action display.
It was just the second Premier League game that Maitland-Niles has started this season and the Hale End academy graduate will be hoping that he can retain his place in Mikel Arteta’s starting XI after the international break – when they travel to Goodison Park to face 11th-placed Everton.
Gunners icon Martin Keown has previously made no secret of his admiration for the 24-year-old and admitted last year that he sees the former West Brom loanee’s future in midfield – a prediction that is well on the way to becoming true.
“He impressed me, it looks so easy for him at times and you can tell he’s got gears,” Keown said on BT Sport in December 2020.
“You rarely get a player with his pace in that role. I would have loved that as a player. He’s a Rolls-Royce of a player at times.
“There’s quality there, he’s growing and getting better every time I see him. I think he’s ready for that central position.”
Given Ghana international Partey is almost guaranteed a starting place when fully fit, Maitland-Niles will likely be competing with the aforementioned Lokonga, who joined from Anderlecht in the summer, for the second spot in Arteta’s midfield pivot.
But his recent performances in the middle of the park have shown the midfielder can go some way to proving Keown’s prediction right.
Source by Football London