Scout report: Arsenal midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Meet Ainsley Maitland-Niles, "the future" according to former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger.

Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles celebrates after scoring against Rennes in the UEFA Europa League last 16
Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles celebrates after scoring against Rennes in the UEFA Europa League last 16 ©Getty Images

It isn't just Arsène Wenger singing the praises of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, either; UEFA.com has the lowdown on the Arsenal tyro.

Scout notes

Maitland-Niles in celebratory mood after scoring against Rennes
Maitland-Niles in celebratory mood after scoring against Rennes©Getty Images

Name: Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Age: 21
Club: Arsenal
Position: Midfielder
Country: England
2018/19*: 28 games, two goals

Who is he?

An Arsenal academy product, Maitland-Niles is a central midfielder by trade, but is excelling in right-back and wing-back roles this season having taken his chance by filling in at left-back.

What makes him so good?

That versatility underlines Maitland-Niles' intelligence, while former Arsenal coach Wenger praised his "pace" and "very good recovery runs," emphasising that "defensively he's quite strong". The tyro has begun to add goals to his game of late, too, including a crucial UEFA Europa League strike against Rennes.

Why is he the centre of attention?

Watch Maitland-Niles score his first European goal
Watch Maitland-Niles score his first European goal

Maitland-Niles has featured in every UEFA Europa League knockout round so far this season, his first European goal and dynamic showing against Rennes inspiring Arsenal's second-leg turnaround. Even more impressive has been how quickly the youngster bounced back from suffering a broken leg in August 2018; he was in action again as soon as October.

Where has he come from?

Born in Goodmayes in north-east London, Maitland-Niles was spotted by Arsenal scouts when playing in a park and joined the club's academy at seven. He worked his way into the first team, also impressing on loan at second-tier Ipswich Town in 2015/16.

When did he make his debut?

Maitland-Niles made his senior debut in a 4-1 win at Galatasaray in December 2014, replacing Aaron Ramsey at half-time and becoming Arsenal's second youngest player in the UEFA Champions League. "He [Wenger] just said to mark Wesley Sneijder really tight, so I had to try and get close to him. I was really, really nervous but I don't think it went through my mind once when I was on the pitch," he said.

How far could he go?

Maitland-Niles has excelled in several positions
Maitland-Niles has excelled in several positions©Getty Images

With his intelligence, versatility and energy, Maitland-Niles has all the tools to become a top-class modern midfielder. His first priority, however, must be nailing down a permanent position in the Arsenal side. He's in no doubt as to where that should be: "I'm a central midfielder but I can play in various positions," he told Sky Sports.

What they say …

"Wow – the talent of him. He's going to play for Arsenal, there's no doubt in my mind. I had the conversation with him 'I know you can play, but if you don't run around and don't put a shift in you won't play' but he's a workaholic. He's got real quality and he's a lovely kid too. He really is smashing."
Mick McCarthy, former Ipswich manager

"I believe he is the future. He can play left-back, right-back, central midfield. Of the three positions, maybe the least natural for him is left-back, but he adapts very quickly and is a good defender. He has that sense of one against one, he is very strong, he is very quick and he has very quick recovery runs when he comes back. He has some aspects to learn: experience and he has to work on his heading."
Arsène Wenger, former Arsenal manager

"Arsenal have to be proud of young players like this who come from the youth team. They come here and he's playing so well."
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal team-mate 

"When you see him on the ball, he's so graceful, elegant and composed."
Gary Neville, former Manchester United right-back

What he says …

"I know people think: 'Oh he looks too relaxed, he looks like this or that,' but it's just me as a person. It is quite odd for a youngster [to be so calm], but the team make me feel more comfortable. They have trust in me and they will give me the ball when I need to be given the ball. It's just the team who have helped me settle by working together and I think I've earned their trust."

"I've had love for the club since I've been here. I'll always have love for it but it's getting stronger every day."

"My generation was Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp. Henry was my favourite player. Growing up as a kid he was the perfect player. He scored goals, he ran back to help the team out, made assists and was just physically amazing."

"I don't feel like I'm there. I'm still young and I have a lot of learning to do. Even if I was playing week in, week out I wouldn't say I was there because the learning stage I am at now, I still have so much more to give to the game. Once I get there where I can't give any more, then I'd say I'm there."

*appearance data includes all competitive games for Arsenal this season

Top