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Arsenal proved critics wrong with FA Cup win at Sheffield United, says Ainsley Maitland-Niles

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Arsenal midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles believes the squad proved the critics who question their character wrong by scoring a late winner to beat Sheffield United on Sunday.

The Gunners defeated Sheffield United 2-1 at Bramall Lane to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, with midfielder Dani Ceballos finding the net in injury time.

Before that Arsenal had taken the lead through a Nicolas Pepe penalty, but the tie had looked set for extra time when David McGoldrick equalised in the 87th minute.

Mikel Arteta’s side, however, rallied to score a late winner and Maitland-Niles believes it shows the character within the squad.

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Arsenal have come under fire recently in the wake of their loss to Brighton, where they threw away a one-goal lead and midfielder Matteo Guendouzi clashed with Neal Maupay at the final whistle.

Maupay said some Arsenal players “need to learn what is humility”, while the side was criticised by pundits too for failing to see out the game.

The Gunners have bounced back from that, though, and Sunday’s win capped off a good week for Arteta that saw his side claim back-to-back wins.

“A lot’s been said about the character of this group,” said Maitland-Niles.

“But I think you really saw at 1-1, to come back and rally and get that late goal to push on, and get that win against a Sheffield United team who’ve done well this season, it does show what we’re about.

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“We’ve been building a lot of character. The tough times we’re in show we’ve got the character to come back and keep fighting, try to do as well as we can in the League and in the domestic cups.

“I think today was just the icing on the cake in showing people we can really do it.”

Maitland-Niles has himself been challenged by Arteta, with the Spaniard calling him out after an FA Cup victory over Portsmouth in March.

“Ainsley needs to put his head down and work hard and show me every day in training that he wants it more than anyone else, he wants to play for this club and fight for his place,” said Arteta.

Maitland-Niles has responded to his head coach’s challenge and Sunday was his first start since January.

Response: Maitland-Niles was challenged to get his head down and work hard (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s an amazing feeling. Every club wants to go to Wembley and play,” he said.

“For us to do it here today, away, and we haven’t had the best of results away recently... it’s good to pick up that win.

“Just keep supporting us, stick with us. We’re a team in progress, just like a lot of other teams, and we’re trying to win as many games as we can to please the fans.”

After booking a semi-final showdown with Manchester City, the only negative from the win for Arsenal was a possible injury to David Luiz.

The Brazilian was forced off just before the hour mark with an ankle problem and the club are assessing him ahead of Wednesday’s match with Norwich.




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