Player focus: Ainsley Maitland-Niles makes step towards senior squad v Reading

Ainsley Maitland-Niles was rewarded after an encouraging display in the previous round against Nottingham Forest with a further starting berth, this time alongside Mohamed Elneny in central midfield as Arsenal hosted Reading in their EFL Cup tie.

The 19-year-old, who made his Champions League debut against Galatasaray two years ago and has been previously tipped for stardom, ultimately didn’t disappoint with another energetic display at the Emirates.

On another day, he could’ve had a first half hat-trick after coming close on a number of occasions. He saw a curling effort swerve an inch wide of Ali Al-Habsi’s far post, before coming close again on the edge of the area and attempting what would’ve been a spectacular finish from range after Reading’s back line partially cleared the ball from a corner.

Refusing to let his head drop after missed opportunities, Maitland-Niles remained a prominent threat in the final third when he got forward. His passing was accurate as usual, smart positioning meant he was able to complete plenty of combinations with teammates in pockets of space whilst retaining defensive solidity when out of possession.

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 25: Maitland-Niles got forward where possible and was effective on the ball in midfield with Reading’s backline always a step or two behind him. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

As shown previously in the youth ranks, he used his pace to good effect, tracking back regularly when Reading had spells of possession in the Arsenal half.

With the match nearing completion, he gradually began to fade away with fresh substitutes eager to get themselves on the ball and prove their ability. Overall, it was a solid display and one which will only enhance his reputation as he aims to break into the senior side on a more regular basis over the coming months.

It’ll be increasingly hard given the midfield signings of Elneny and more recently, Granit Xhaka, but his versatility means he can play in a variety of different positions and he’s talented enough to command interest from plenty of Championship clubs in the market for a potential loan.

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