Ordinarily he wouldn’t have started, but a minor groin strain for Thomas Partey meant he wasn’t risked and the 24 year was given the nod ahead of the more experienced Mohamed Elneny.
He put in a disciplined midfield performance, working hard, making 100% of his tackles, 9 ball recoveries, and playing his part in our clean sheet and the three points.
His performance impressed boss Mikel Arteta, who says he’s seen a different player since the end of transfer window drama – which led to Maitland-Niles using social media to express his dismay at not being allowed leave for Everton.
“First of all, I see a different player in terms of his urgency, his commitment and the clarity in his play and purpose,” he said.
“Since we made the decision I was clear with what I was seeing, I wanted him to stay because he was going to be useful.
“He has a huge talent, and he is versatile enough to adapt to any position on the pitch.
“Today we made use of him to do what we had to in the game which was very important.”
Pressed on what he meant by the differences, he continued, “When I see him in training sessions, when I see how he prepares, asking the questions he’s asking, the level of attention to everything you talk through, as response is immediate.
“He’s a really clever, intelligent boy and I think he’s needed to transmit that and how much he cares with his body language and his determination.
“I think he’s come a long way.”
Arteta was unsure if Partey would be released for international duty given his injury, so while we hope it’s not serious, performances like today’s from Maitland-Niles provide some reassurance that we can cope reasonably well in his absence.