Ainsley Maitland-Niles became a crucial member of Unai Emery’s since January 2019 when full-back Hector Bellerin suffered a knee ligament injury.
The 21-year-old English player, who is originally a midfielder/right winger, was transformed by the Spanish coach into a full back in order to replace Bellerin. It was a huge responsibility on the young shoulders of Maitland-Niles who had to replace an established star in a position which is alien to him.
It was his natural versatility which helped the player to adjust to the position. In Matiland-Niles, Emery has a found a good alternative. In fact, the player has also been deployed as a left-back too and has delivered decent performances.
He has scored twice this season, once in Europa League and once in the Premier League. He has also provided three assists.Maitland-Niles has played an important role in Arsenal’s dream run in the UEFA Europa League considering he has delivered in two important knockout matches.
His only goal of the competition was against Rennes FC in the round of 16 at the Emirates Stadium. The full-back overlapped and converted a header from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross at a very crucial juncture.
The Gunners came into the second leg with a 3-1 deficit. The young full-back's goal helped his team restore parity in terms of goal difference.
In the first leg of the quarterfinal clash against Napoli in London, it was Maitland-Niles who had provided a wonderful assist to Aaron Ramsey as Arsenal took an important lead.
The young English player is one to look out for in the Europa League final and will be in charge of marking Chelsea’s star player Eden Hazard.