Unai Emery has admitted that he's pleased with the progress made by Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but has warned the young fullback against resting on his laurels.
A product of Arsenal's famed Hale End Academy, Maitland-Niles made his debut as a 17-year-old back in 2014, but did not begin appearing regularly for the Gunners until last year's campaign under Arsene Wenger.
Despite playing the bulk of his age-grade football at his preferred position of centre midfield, Emery has deployed Maitland-Niles at right back for the majority of the season. Whilst it may not be his chosen role, the youngster has showcased a clear aptitude for the position, with aggressive pressing, raw pace, and seemingly endless reserves of energy becoming hallmarks of his performances.
These traits were all on show during Arsenal's midweek Europa League quarter-final clash against Napoli, where he helped guide his team to a 1-0 victory, as they progressed to a tantalising semi-final bout against Emery's former side, Valencia.
Speaking to the Daily Star after Thursday's win, Emery discussed the progress made by Maitland-Niles this season, and outlined what he expects from any young player attempting to break into the Arsenal first team.
“First you have to know that our level is a very big level and it requires young players to do a lot of work to show us they have the possibility to get in – and then hold one position at Arsenal.
“This process was done by Ainsley and it is continuing. But I demand from him not to stop - to do even more.”
Despite progressing to the semi-final of the Europa League in impressive fashion, Emery was quick to turn his attention back to Sunday's Premier League bout against a Crystal Palace side whose league position contradicts their threat.
“Palace have a big coach with big experience. They have big players who are in form. Respect to them.
“And I think they have had some very good performances away from home. For example, they won at Manchester City. That means further respect to them.
Chief amongst these "big players" outlined by Emery, is surely Wilfred Zaha. Palace's talismanic striker will arrive at The Emirates with perhaps more of a point to prove than usual, after recent links with a move to Arsenal's north London rivals, as well as PSG.