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Arsenal’s Maitland-Niles reveals his London pride

Capital upbringing gives Gunners ace the ‘edge’ as he establishes himself as a key member of Unai Emery’s starting line-up

11 April, 2019 — By Steve Barnett

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: ‘There is a certain style to London football. I think we’re very energetic and I think it’s a physical game as well’

AINSLEY Maitland-Niles believes growing up in the capital gave him the “physical edge” that he needed to break into the Arsenal first team.

The 21-year-old Londoner has firmly established himself as a key member of Unai Emery’s starting line-up this season, filling in at right-back following Hector Bellerin’s injury.

It is still unclear where Maitland-Niles’ best position is, with the player saying he sees himself long-term “as a winger”, while fans are calling for him to be played in central midfield. Wherever he ends up on the pitch, it’s been quite a journey for the Hale End graduate, who says his football education in the capital has given him the perfect platform to succeed.

“I grew up in east London and I went to school in Newbury Park,” he told Arsenal Player. “A lot of kids in London play football and grow up loving football. It’s a passion that you’re either born with or you’re not.

“There is a certain style to London football. I think we’re very energetic and I think it’s a physical game as well. In the parks, the cages, places like that, there were a lot of people sporting their team colours and also their Sunday league colours from whoever they’d played for before. They wanted people to know who they were.

“It’s a very big culture in London and a lot of the youth that I know and get to speak to are trying to take the same path as me, to start from young and carrying on.”

Maitland-Niles has enjoyed victories over Tottenham, Chelsea and Fulham this season, and says there “is no greater feeling” than beating another London club.

“When you’re playing in a London derby at the Emirates, the fans are rocking,” he added. “The energy’s better and it’s a big occasion for the players on the pitch. It’s up to us to go and deliver. I like them, I like the pressure. It’s an occasion to turn up for a big game and make a statement, so why not?

“We know that we should be winning those matches for our fans, for our families and for each other. Winning those games and derbies is an amazing feeling. You’ve got the bragging rights until next time and it sets up the occasion for the next game as well, because you’ve got something to prove to everyone.”

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