Arsenal benefiting from continental approach, says Maitland-Niles

Syndicate Post image
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has become a regular on the right-hand side of Arsenal’s defence (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal eased into the Europa League semi-finals with victory at Napoli on Thursday night and Ainsley Maitland-Niles is putting the success down to the Gunners emulating their continental counterparts.

Alexandre Lacazette’s first-half free-kick was enough to seal a 1-0 win at the Stadio San Paolo and a 3-0 aggregate victory over a Napoli side currently second in Serie A.

Unai Emery will now come up against former club Valencia in the last four as he aims to win a fourth Europa League title of his managerial career and end his first season in England with both silverware and Champions League qualification.

Maitland-Niles, who enjoyed another strong showing at right wing-back in Naples, believes that learning how European teams see out crunch ties is helping Arsenal this season.

“It’s a tough league in England,” he said, with Arsenal currently fourth heading into the weekend’s fixtures.

“We’re learning different methods in Europe because sometimes we need to be more like the foreign teams and stick with it for 90 minutes and just grind out results and it’s going well at the moment.

“I think we’re gelling together very well. The manager is working with a back four, a back five, so we all know positionally what to do, not to dive in in the box and not to give silly fouls away around the box as well.

“We dug deep (against Napoli). You can score as many goals as you want but if you don’t defend properly then the game could go either way, as we saw in the Champions League (with Tottenham against Manchester City).”

One sour note on what was a comfortable evening in Italy was an injury to midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

The Wales international may have played his last game for Arsenal after limping off with what Emery described as a muscular injury.

Ramsey will sign for Juventus on a free transfer when his contract at the Emirates Stadium expires this summer and, when asked on his way to the team coach after the game if he would be okay, the 28-year-old replied: “We’ll see.”

With a Europa League semi-final on the horizon, Arsenal will now turn attention to their Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at the Emirates on Sunday looking to maintain their place in the top four.

Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, insists Wayne Hennessey is desperate to improve his knowledge of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany following the revelation that he did not know what a Nazi salute was.

Palace goalkeeper Hennessey, 32, was charged by the Football Association after he was pictured with his right arm in the air and left hand above his mouth in a photograph posted on Instagram by German team-mate Max Meyer.

After the charge was found not proven, the Football Association, in its written reasons, said Hennessey had showed a “lamentable degree of ignorance” about Hitler, fascism and the Nazi regime.

Asked if he was disappointed at such a glaring gap in the Wales international’s education, Hodgson, 71, said: “I don’t know how disappointed one should be.

“It’s different to people of my generation who are much closer to it. I don’t quite know what the young generation is learning about it.

“I think what is important in that report is that they made it perfectly clear they found Wayne a very honest and kind and good individual.

“The fact he lacks education is where we as a club and Kick It Out, with whom we work very closely, have to take into consideration, because maybe it’s something we haven’t been so aware of.

“Obviously we are talking about a period of history which maybe isn’t being dealt with in the education programme as it once was.”

Palace will be without Jeffrey Schlupp for the clash against the Gunners after the winger was ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

Schlupp joins centre-backs James Tomkins (groin) and Mamadou Sakho (knee) on the sidelines.

Breaking