West Brom loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles silenced his critics on Monday night with a heroic display in the 3-0 thrashing of Southampton at The Hawthorns.
The Baggies produced their best home performance of the season, continuing the momentum from last weeks win at Stamford Bridge.
Matheus Pereira, Matty Phillips and Callum Robinson came up with the goals but Maitland-Niles, in particular, turned heads. He put in a spirited, energetic performance and covered every blade of grass in his box-to-box midfield role.
It caps off an excellent turnaround for the 23-year-old. Just last month, after an under-par performance against Newcastle, the Englishman was branded “terrible” by ex-Arsenal player Lee Dixon on Amazon Prime Sport.
Despite not scoring or assisting against Southampton, Maitland-Niles was arguably the best player on the pitch. This was easily his best performance since joining on loan from Arsenal. He didn’t stop running and was useful on the ball.
He got the Baggies going after the controversial VAR decision which ruled out an opening goal. Maitland-Niles drove into the box and squared brilliantly for Pereira, who beat Fraser Forster to the ball and won a penalty.
It was an excellent bit of play from the midfielder. He set the tone for the high-press. We even saw the likes of Okay Yokuslu following and driving up the pitch from time to time.
Overall, he attempted eight dribbles during the match, which was more than any other player [Wyscout], completing 63% of his attempted carries. It’s more than double his average take-ons for the season, which is currently 3.52 per 90.
He was constantly looking to drive West Brom up the pitch and encouraged the high-press that we aren’t used to seeing under Sam Allardyce. Maitland-Niles won possession four times over the course of the match, every time coming in the Southampton half.
Maitland-Niles lined up against England rival James Ward-Prowse and was all over him from the get-go. The Saints skipper was dispossessed seven times, four times in his own half.
With just seven games to go in the season, this performance could definitely give the national boss Gareth Southgate something to think about. Maitland-Niles made no secret of his desire to play for England this summer when making the switch to the Hawthorns.
Until now that has seemed a bit of a stretch. But with his versatility, and the way he performed on Monday, could he still force his way into the squad?
In other West Brom news, Don Goodman labelled this Baggies ace as ‘absoltely magnificent’ for his performance last night.