As Mikel Arteta acquired his 100th match as Arsenal supervisor, the first string sheet he ever provided as head coach naturally resurfaced.
Bukayo Saka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were 3 familiar names from the 4 gamers that had the difference of bookending Arteta’s century, however Ainsley Maitland-Niles likewise appeared as the unforeseen member of that quartet too.
Starting in location of the hurt Thomas Partey in Arsenal’s gritty 1-0 win over Watford on Sunday, Maitland-Niles lined up together with Albert Sambi Lokonga – actioning in while Granit Xhaka continues his healing – to form Arteta’s extremely second-choice midfield double-pivot.
Barely 2 months prior, Maitland-Niles’ status as an Arsenal gamer, not to mention a starter, appeared deeply suspicious. As the transfer window ended, the club’s academy item took the modern-day method of venting his aggravations digitally (and really openly) by publishing: “All I wanna do is go where I’m wanted and where I’m gonna play.”
Alongside no less than 3 sobbing face emojis, Maitland-Niles specifically tagged the authorities Arsenal account. However, no relocation materialised and, entering into Sunday’s match, the 24-year-old had actually made as numerous Premier League begins as the long-forgotten Sead Kolasinac.
At the start of Arteta’s reign, Maitland-Niles became among the group’s crucial entertainers by taking a specific niche function as a rampaging left wing-back. Completing the complete 90 minutes in the last 3 rounds of that season’s FA Cup, his thrust and deactivating speed extended the backlines of Manchester City and Chelsea en path to the prize, developing area for Aubameyang to score a brace in each component.
Maitland-Niles practically conspired to produce an opening for his Gabon goalscorer inside the opening 10 minutes of the weekend’s Watford win. Snapping into a deal with on the edge of the Hornets’ box, Partey’s replacement stabbed Lacazette into the location. The Frenchman’s scooped effort was pawed to the feet of Aubameyang however he took a heavy touch into the course of an offside Saka – who ended up crisply however.
In the lack of Arsenal’s first-choice pairing, Maitland-Niles was approved the possibility to satisfy his favoured function. “I want to play in the centre of the pitch because I feel comfortable there and there’s a lot of things I can bring by playing in the middle,” he explained to the Express and Star while playing in that position on loan with West Bromwich Albion last season. “You can control the game from there and I think my attributes help me do that.”
From that main function Maitland-Nile definitely affected procedures in a worrying, foul-ridden skirmish at the Emirates. No gamer on the pitch made more takes on (5) or interceptions (2) than Arsenal’s number 15 versus Watford.
Aside from protective steel, Partey and Xhaka likewise work as the chief exponents of development up the pitch for Arsenal, balancing the most enters the last third of any Gunner this season. While Maitland-Niles scampered around, it typically was up to Sambi – the more often utilized gamer up until now – to gather the ball from his defence and launch Arsenal’s attacks.
Arteta was radiant with appreciation for Sambi’s swift adjustment to Arsenal’s first string pre-match. “A lot of intelligence in his game, and courage,” the supervisor gushed to Arsenal’s main site.
“He is a player that is constantly trying to affect the game in the right way. It was a big task to ask him to play the amount of minutes he’s played already in the league, in such a short time. But he’s showing that he’s capable of doing it, and he’s handling the situation really, really impressively.”
While it wasn’t an efficiency without fault – Juraj Kucka robbed Arsenal’s 22-year-old getting the ball, facing his own objective, on the edge of his own charge location to require an uncommon shot for the visitors in the very first half – Lokonga brushed himself down and right away made himself readily available for a pass once again, revealing that ‘guts’ Arteta appreciates in abundance.
With a 3rd successive Premier League objective to win the match, Emile Smith Rowe will naturally declare the headings, however 2 of Arsenal’s other young midfielders came forward to make sure Arteta’s landmark match ended with a win.