Ainsley Maitland-Niles credits 'trusting' Arsene Wenger for breakthrough season at Arsenal

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Ainsley Maitland-Niles has opened up about his close relationship with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Ainsley Maitland-Niles says Arsene Wenger's belief and open approach has supported the Arsenal youngster during his breakthrough season at the club.

Having started the 2017-18 season with the U23s, 20-year-old Maitland-Niles has since broken into the first team at the Emirates, making 10 Premier League appearances to date.

Maitland-Niles has also featured in the Europa League nine times, and made his England U21 debut in October after forming part of the U20 World Cup-winning squad last summer.

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Ahead of Arsenal hosting Stoke on Nissan Super Sunday - live on Sky Sports Premier League - Maitland-Niles credited a "loving" Wenger for providing him with support throughout the campaign.

"I owe him a lot for believing in me and telling me I need to work on stuff before he has put me out there," Maitland-Niles told Sky Sports News.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has featured four times for England U21s this season
Image: Maitland-Niles has featured four times for England U21s this season

"I come in every day and try and work as hard as I can on the things I know I need to work hard on and the things that other people pull me up about to be the best that I can.

"Me personally, he's a very trusting person. He has a lot of belief in his players and whenever you want to talk to him about something his door's always open - you can always walk in.

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"Especially on the training pitch, he does put his arm around you when he thinks, 'Look, I need to get into this player and tell him in a nice way how he needs to improve on this and that', and it gives you a lot of confidence that the boss believes in you.

He's a very trusting person. He has a lot of belief in his players and whenever you want to talk to him about something his door's always open - you can always walk in.
Maitland-Niles on Wenger

"You could talk to him about anything. He's such a loving guy, he treats every player as family.

"It depends how open you are as well to go and speak to him. It's almost like he can be your dad, but he's your coach at the same time, so he's giving you that push in both areas."

Maitland-Niles has featured in the matchday squad for every league game since December's 1-1 draw with Southampton.

The youngster, who has often been deployed on the left in defence or midfield, has only tasted one league defeat when playing since that match - a 2-1 loss to Bournemouth in January.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Image: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang training with Maitland-Niles

Maitland-Niles remained on the bench for Arsenal's recent run of four losses in five games, but conceded the players need to take more of the blame away from Wenger.

"When he talks about football and how our team is doing, it's solely his opinion and what he thinks on the team. It's nothing to do with things that are coming from the press. He's very straightforward in what he wants us to do and he tells us that," Maitland-Niles added.

"I don't think we take enough [blame]. We should also take some of the blame because we are the ones on the pitch. He only picks the team, so that's how far his judgement goes, but us on the pitch I think we need to take more responsibility and really fight and stand up for our club.

"He's a great manager. He's got a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge, and a big personality as well if he's taking a lot of the blame."

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