Ainsley Maitland-Niles is used to progressing very quickly indeed. He first played for Arsenal’s U18s in a friendly when he was just 14 before breaking into the team at that level during the 2012/13 season. The following campaign saw the youngster establish himself in the U21 set-up whilst last season he made an unexpectedly early foray into the first-team picture by featuring in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.
The England youth international has taken the next step in his career today by joining Ipswich Town on loan for the entire 2015/16 season. Given that he doesn’t turn 18 until next month, it is quite a feat for Maitland-Niles to have been recruited, albeit on a temporary basis, by a Championship side, but he is certainly talented and, as we saw last season in the wake of some unsavoury incidents involving his mother, he is a very determined and focused individual and certainly isn’t the type of player to let off-the-field matters distract him from progressing.
Last season Maitland-Niles was deployed primarily as a central-midfielder, often in a deep-lying position, but towards the end of the campaign the Hale End product stated that that he prefers to play in his previous position of a right-winger. He is capable of operating in either area, though, and his versatility may well help him to feature regularly for Mick McCarthy’s team.
It remains to be seen whether Maitland-Niles will go on to establish himself in the starting line-up at Portman Road but, given how determined McCarthy was to sign him (this deal had been rumoured for several weeks), it seems unlikely that he will be on the fringes of things.
It may seem a little early for Maitland-Niles to be experiencing Championship football but, in addition to his obvious technical qualities, he should be able to cope with the physical demands of playing in that division. A good crosser of the ball who is also capable of shooting accurately from distance, he will hope to gain some valuable experience at Ipswich before returning to Arsenal next summer.
Maitland-Niles becomes the first member of Arsenal’s 2013 intake of scholars to head out on loan. Some of the slightly older U21 players, such as Alex Iwobi and Glen Kamara, may well join him in securing temporary deals elsewhere before the new campaign gets underway.