Arsenal played a slightly strange side against Southampton on Saturday with two players usually more comfortable out wide playing in centre-midfield.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was one midfielder but did have experience of the role from his days as a youngster at the Saints, but Ainsley Maitland-Niles was more of a newcomer to the position, and is usually seen on the right flank.
The 19-year-old however caught supporters by surprise with a terrific showing from the new position, comfortably operating as Arsenal’s defensive midfielder in a brilliant 5-0 win.
Two goals from Danny Welbeck and a hat-trick from Theo Walcott secured the victory on an excellent evening for Arsene Wenger’s side and Maitland-Niles’s performance will not be forgotten quickly with the youngster perhaps finding a new home in the Arsenal side.
Gunners fans were delighted with how the teenage talent performed and took to social media to praise Maitland-Niles, comparing him to some of the great defensive midfielders in recent history.
— Moh Haider (@ArsenalMoh8) January 28, 2017
Maitland-Niles was far more convincing as a central midfielder than he was as a right-back!
Good positioning & tenacity. ????#Arsenal
— Carl Bövis ⚽ (@CarlBovis_AFC) January 29, 2017
When Maitland Niles sees peak Makelele pic.twitter.com/Pc4pwTPtxK
— Gab (@OnlyOneOzil) January 29, 2017
Maitland-Niles was fantastic. Very promising performance from him. Welbz class. Perez class. Ox ran the show.
— Dave Arrondelle (@davidarrondelle) January 29, 2017
Very impressed with @Ains_7 in CM yesterday. Great passing range & work rate. Looks a promising talent ????????
— Memz Dogi (@AFCMemz) January 29, 2017
Maitland-Niles and Jeff have been excellent. Both really intelligent players with a good mix of pace & technique.
— JB™ (@gunnerpunner) January 28, 2017
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is from the Alex Iwobi school. His biggest strength is that he understands football and does the basics well.
— Talisker me (@hahostolze) January 28, 2017
I was well impressed with Maitland Niles yesterday. #AFC
— On Me Head Son! (@Danielfloyd1981) January 29, 2017
That Maitland-Niles for Arsenal yesterday was insane, big big future for him
— Louis Crawford (@LouisCrawford10) January 29, 2017
Maitland Niles has always impressed me anytime I watch him play but yesterday was outstanding. Top talent that.
— ADETAYO (@DreyKanmzs) January 29, 2017
So I just rewatched the first half of the game yesterday. Maitland-Niles was actually a 10/10 for that half alone. Ticked all the boxes
— VIII (@CentraIRamsey) January 29, 2017
Scenes when Maitland-Niles and Oxlade-Chamberlain run the Arsenal midfield for 10 years.
— Pierre (@FootyGFX_) January 28, 2017
Maitland-Niles and Oxlade Chamberlain are the new Vieira and Petit.
— Pablo (@AFCAMDEN) January 28, 2017