Each season promises to be a breakout season for every academy player across the football globe and players from the Hale End Academy are no different. The Hale End Academy produces some of the finest players in England and Europe; that serves as the football academy for Arsenal youngsters.
Over the years, the Hale End Academy has produced brilliant players in the likes of; Ashley Cole, Tony Adams, Jack Wilshere, Andy Cole, Martin Keown, David Rocastle, Ray Parlour, Paul Merson, Liam Brady, Pat Rice, Cesc Fabregas and the list goes on.
With the recent emergence of the Nigerian international, Alex Iwobi into the Arsenal first team, youth players from the Hale End Academy would like to follow in such trajectory. With the academy having to boast of a plethora of talent amongst their ranks, competition is stiff amongst these youngsters thereby chances of these youngsters breaking into the first team or reaching maximum potential are slim.
One particular player on brink of breaking into the Arsenal first team is Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Maitland –Niles has been at the club since he was 6, working his way through every level of Arsenal’s rank, now arriving at the point where he has to grab every opportunity given to him in the first team. Having seized his opportunity this season – making 6 appearances so far, coming off a successful loan spell at Ipswich Town the previous season (2015/2016), making 32 appearances and scoring 2 goals in the process – winning the player of the month for September 2015.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a talented player that can play in a couple of positions as a right-back, winger and central midfielder. A lot has been said about the player’s preferred playing position, with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger saying he see the player better suited in the centre of the pitch, and, the player also confirming in a post-match interview against Southampton saying: “Yes, I prefer to play centre mid than right back, but I’m happy to do a job for the team. You’re just in the centre of everything and most of it was going through me today, so I just like to be involved in the play really”.
Looking at his stats against Southampton where he (Ainsley Maitland-Niles) played in the centre of the park for the first time in the senior team, he recorded a 90 percent passing accuracy, 78 passes, 103 touches, 6 tackles, 3 interceptions and 7 possession gained. His stats look like that of a veteran, but considering his age of only 19 years; he has some flourishing to do in the centre of the pitch.
To further aid his development into the first team, it’d be worthwhile for Arsene and the youth coaches to nurture Maitland-Niles further into the central role. In addition, for Ainsley to achieve his potential, he needs to work hard and stay focused. He needs to be rooted in his football and not let the commercial benefits get in his way like most young players do nowadays.
In my opinion, he’d flourish tremendously if he was taught his trade in the centre of the park and I’ve got the topmost believe he’d go on to be a world-beater in the centre midfield role.