Arsenal have had a difficult start to 2018. In four matches they have conceded four penalties and have failed to win in the new year. They've crashed out of the FA Cup and are five points adrift of the top four in the Premier League. However, if there has been one positive for the Gunners in 2018 it is the impressive performances of 20-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The Gunners academy graduate has put in some accomplished performances at left wing-back in Arsenal's last four match, in place of the injured Sead Kolasinac.
The Englishman has looked composed beyond his years and impressed again in their Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea. However, manager Arsene Wenger has hinted that he does not see Maitland-Niles' future on the left.
Arsenal have confirmed that they will be selling defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin to Valencia in the January window and once he officially departs, Maitland-Niles could be the man to replace Coquelin in midfield.
"First of all the best way to replace him [Coquelin] now is to get Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil back. After that, we see," Arsene Wenger told Standard Sport (via the Metro).
Once defensive regulars Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac return from injury, Maitland-Niles could be free to explore his potential new role in the centre of midfield.
"I think Maitland-Niles had an outstanding performance tonight," Wenger said after the Chelsea game.
"He’s a defensive midfielder basically, what he’s doing at the moment will help him as well to develop as a player because he plays in a different position."
Jack Wilshere looked like he picked up another ankle injury during that draw with Chelsea, which could free up ever more space for Maitland-Niles to get some minutes in midfield. The Gunners face Bournemouth in their next fixture.