Ainsley Maitland-Niles has signed a long-term contract extension with Arsenal.
He is the first member of the Arsenal first-team to extend his contract since Unai Emery took over as head coach, an indication the new boss views the England youth international as part of his plans.
New season, new contract, new number.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) June 12, 2018
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis hinted as much after Emery was announced as Arsene Wenger’s replacement on May 23, when highlighting how the former Paris Saint-Germain boss had impressed in his interview with his detailed knowledge of players like Maitland-Niles.
“If we were speaking about one of our young players, if we targeted Ainsley Maitland-Niles for example, Unai knows Ainsley,” Gazidis told the Arsenal website at the time.
“He’s watched him, he’s familiar with his patterns of play, his capabilities, he’s very excited about his potential and was able to talk about how excited he was to work with Ainsley, to develop him as a player.”
Maitland-Niles said: “You don’t really hear a lot of young players being shouted out by their managers, especially a new manager who hasn’t really seen them play too much.
“I think it’s brilliant to hear from him and it gives me a load of confidence. It feels fantastic knowing that I’m going to be a part of the squad, and a big part of the squad. It means a lot with the new head coach coming in and Arsenal tying me down [with a new contract]. I’m very pleased.
“We had a little meeting. [Emery] said that he wants all of his players to work hard and I’m no stranger to doing that. It will be second nature to me. I think [the high-pressing game] suits me a lot, too. I’ve got a lot of pace to give to the team, pressing up high and winning the ball back as soon as possible is a major factor in football.”
The 20-year-old joined Arsenal’s Hale End academy at the age of nine and was frequently used as a utility player by Wenger last season, when he made 28 appearances in all competitions.
He is mostly viewed as a central midfielder but was also used as a full-back and wing-back by Wenger.
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.