Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has challenged Ainsley Maitland-Niles to produce his best form more consistently after he celebrated his 23rd birthday with a Community Shield triumph and a maiden England call-up.
Maitland-Niles was named man of the match as the Gunners drew 1-1 with Premier League champions Liverpool at Wembley before prevailing 5-4 on penalties.
As he did during the respective FA Cup semi-final and final wins over Manchester City and Chelsea, Arteta selected Maitland-Niles at left wing-back.
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After full-time, the youngster learned this versatility had earned him a place as cover in Gareth Southgate’s England squad to face Iceland and Denmark in the Nations League next week.
Southgate did not select a recognised left-back in his original party and has also called up similarly uncapped Wolves captain Conor Coady to a group now lacking Manchester United’s Harry Maguire.
Maitland-Niles’ Arsenal future has been far from certain in recent weeks, with Wolves and Newcastle United both touted as having an interest in his services, and Arteta told a post-match news conference that the London club’s academy graduate still has plenty of work to do.
“Has to be able to convince me every day in training that he can compete at this level – not once every three months but every three days,” he said of a player who told BT Sport amid the celebrations: “I’m an Arsenal player until I’m told otherwise”.
Arteta added: “The way he’s playing at the moment shows me that he can do it. His mentality, the way he is going about every single detail for the preparation of a football game is much better than before.
“I’m delighted and very happy for him as he’s changing a lot of things around him to become the player that he can be.
“The best way to show a player what a manager thinks about him is to give him the chance to play or not. Today, in a final again, he has started – like he did against City in the semi-final, against Chelsea in the final.”
Celebrates rd birthdayWins #CommunityShieldEarns first #ThreeLions call-upSome day for @MaitlandNiles! pic.twitter.com/Z8eML2SOnX
— England (@England) August 29, 2020
Aston Villa have been linked with a move for Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, who once again impressed on the big occasion, although Bernd Leno’s return from injury could leave the Argentine as the odd man out once the Premier League season kicks off next month.
“We are in the market and there is a lot of speculation,” Arteta said. “Emi has shown over the past few months what he is able to do for this football club.
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“I am convinced that he has the level to play for us consistently at that level. He showed that today in a final.
“But I cannot stop speculation and what all the people can write about this.”
Asked whether there had been any offers for Martinez, Arteta replied: “I’m not going to discuss publicly what is happening with our players.”
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