Ainsley Maitland-Niles handed first England call-up by Gareth Southgate

Arsenal’s versatile fullback Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been called up to the England senior squad for the first time in his career after convincing performances at left-back caught the attention of the Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate.

The 23-year-old’s England call-up was an added bonus to what turned out to be a special birthday for Maitland-Niles, who scored from the spot in a penalty shootout to help Arsenal win the Community Shield against Premier League champions Liverpool.

There was outrage from Arsenal fans when the England squad was first announced and didn’t include teenager Bukayo Saka, despite the fact there was no left-back in the squad, with the 18-year-old putting in a number of good performances in that position for the Gunners last season.

However, the addition of Maitland-Niles to the England squad means there is now someone who is suited to the left-back role, whilst also making the 23-year-old the first Arsenal player to be called up to the England squad since Danny Welbeck in 2018.

Injuries to Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw means this is a huge opportunity for Maitland-Niles to impress Gareth Southgate, as given there are no other left-backs in the team, the Arsenal man looks sure to get some minutes in England’s Nations League fixtures against Denmark and Iceland.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles playing for England U19s in a friendly match against Japan. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY THE DAILY MAIL.

The call-up completes Maitland-Niles’ England catalogue, with the Englishman now appearing for England in every age group from the U17s and up. The 23-year-old made four appearances for the Three Lions at U21 level and 16 for the U20s, scoring on his debut for the latter against Brazil.

However, unless Southgate decides to use him elsewhere, this will be Maitland-Niles’ first experience in defence for the national team, as the 23-year-old played mostly as a central midfielder for the England youth sides.

Maitland-Niles’ first experience at fullback came in 2016 in a 4-0 win against Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup where he played at right-back. This was something Arsene Wenger used to do with young wingers to make them understand the defensive aspect of the game, as seen more recently when Reiss Nelson broke on to the scene.

However, due to the competition in his favoured positions in the squad, which were on the wing and in central midfield, Maitland-Niles began to find himself playing at fullback more often than not, and soon became a regular in the Arsenal team playing there.

Last season, Maitland-Niles ended with 33 appearances for the Arsenal senior team, despite the additions of fullbacks Kieran Tierney and Cedric Soares, and he will be hoping he can carry on his club form to the national team and solidify a spot in the England squad for years to come.

*all stats provided by Transfermarkt.

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