Mikel Arteta handed chance to correct ‘concerning’ Arsenal decision vs Villarreal

Arsenal: Arteta urges caution over Martinelli's development

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Mikel Arteta has been handed a major selection dilemma, after Gabriel Martinelli shone in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Newcastle United. The Brazilian has struggled for opportunites this season, with Arteta reluctant to hand him a regular starting berth.

Martinelli missed the first half of the campaign after suffering a serious knee injury in 2020.

However, despite returning to full fitness over the festive period, the forward has been consistently snubbed in favour of other options.

His continued absence, particularly in the midst of a miserable season for the Gunners has heaped pressure on Arteta.

The 19-year-old was a second-half substitute in Thursday’s Europa League semi final first-leg against Villarreal, a game in which Arsenal played without a traditional striker.

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Arteta brought on Martinelli with around 30 minutes to go and had an impact despite losing 2-1 in Spain.

Speaking after the game, Arsenal legend Martin Keown admitted he was concerned about a lack of minutes for the youngster, suggesting there were personal reasons behind his omission.

“The manager doesn’t like him. It’s as simple as that,” Keown said on Thursday.

“I’m not there everyday, I’m not on the training ground. I thought it was very interesting Odegaard had gone internationally and said ‘this is the best young player I’ve ever seen’.

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“And he’s from Real Madrid!

“So now it’s time to let him fly. Let’s look at the positives. Let’s support him. When he came into the team I thought he did a great job. Not only was he making runs down the middle but he was coming back.

“He was like a Duracell battery,” Keown continued.

“Keep him in the team. Play him. You’ve seen what you’ve done with Smith Rowe and Saka. Support him.”

Against the Magpies, with one eye on Thursday’s second leg, Martinelli was handed a rare start and impressed from his left-wing berth.

It was a performance that should put the forward firmly in Arteta’s plans for the pivotal showdown at the Emirates.

“When the team is not winning enough football matches, we always look for someone else to do it. But we can name a few of those,” Arteta explained last month.

“We have to be a little bit patient with him but he has a bright future at the club and he will have all the opportunities that he needs to show us how good he is and the career he can have with us.”

On his St James’ Park showing, the time for those opportunities is now and it could help keep Arsenal’s Europa League dream alive.

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