Mikel Arteta faces tough challenge handling the return of Gabriel Martinelli after failures with William Saliba integration

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Arsenal’s saviour Martinelli?

Arsenal have been somewhat of a paradox this season. Once the free-flowing attacking side which broke down defences with a quick one-two pass. All the while leaking goals for fun with comedic defensive errors torn apart each week on Match of the Day.

Nowadays, the defence is noticeably better and before their stunning loss to Villa, was the best in the league. However, the attacking flair which once glossed the Emirates has diminished and Arsenal have created just 8 ‘big chances’ according to the Premier League in their 8 games.

Alexandre Lacazette may be their top scorer in the league, however, has still been wildly out of form missing key chance after key chance. Arsenal fans are looking around for some glimmer of hope and it may come in the form of currently injured Gabriel Martinelli.

BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand was recently raving over the Brazilian.

“To be 18-years-old, doing what he’s doing,” he said. “The goal against Chelsea alone, he runs from the edge of his box – a set-piece against his team – he takes it to the other end. Normally, your legs are gone by then, you’ve got no energy and no juice in your legs, but he has the composure to slot it.”

“Great player, but the awareness of the way he plays, the way he moves on the pitch, the intelligence to receive the ball, the positions he takes up. It’s mad. He’s a mature player for such a young kid.”

Martinelli is aiming to return to action before the end of the year having suffered a serious knee injury. If he can return with some semblance of the form he showed in his debut year, Mikel Arteta may just have the finisher he is in desperate need of.

Saliba’s warning

The pressure by which Arsenal players are subjected to through the raw expectation of success is almost palpable throughout the club. William Saliba is a perfect example. Signed from St Etienne in the summer of 2019 for £27 million, it was expected the Frenchman would return and slot straight into the first team.

Predicted line-ups began surfacing weeks before the start of the season featuring the 19-year-old. However, the reality within the club was that Saliba wouldn’t be starting. In fact, the club had reportedly been looking to loan out Saliba once again. The loan never happened and to add insult to injury, the Frenchman was not included in Arsenal’s Europa League squad.

<img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-1348335" class="wp-image-1348335 size-large" src="https://newsafricanow.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Picture5-1-1024×661-1.jpg" alt=""

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 30: William Saliba of Arsenal during the Premier League 2 match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Meadow Park on October 30, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

He has been left to ply his trade in the youth setup under Steve Bould but has continued to train with the first team. Arteta said he was ‘fed up’ with Saliba’s situation and arguably regrets how it has played out in his first months.

That same pressure and expectation if applied to Martinelli once he returns could too fall to the detriment of the player and the club. Arsenal have been criticised, rightly, for their handling of Saliba.

Although Martinelli’s return will be an equal, if not greater, challenge for Arteta to face. Rush a player back too soon from a serious injury and the impact could cause further problems. Hector Bellerin experienced a similar episode with his knee injury against Chelsea.

However, continue to persist with misfiring forwards and not allow the highly-regarded Brazilian the chance and the backlash could quickly grow in ferocity.

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 Leicester City FC 8 9 18
2 Tottenham Hotspur FC 8 10 17
3 Liverpool FC 8 2 17
4 Southampton FC 8 4 16
5 Chelsea FC 8 10 15
6 Aston Villa FC 7 9 15
7 Everton FC 8 2 13
8 Crystal Palace FC 8 0 13
9 Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 8 -1 13
10 Manchester City FC 7 1 12
11 Arsenal FC 8 -1 12
12 West Ham United FC 8 4 11
13 Newcastle United FC 8 -3 11
14 Manchester United FC 7 -2 10
15 Leeds United 8 -3 10
16 Brighton & Hove Albion FC 8 -3 6
17 Fulham FC 8 -8 4
18 West Bromwich Albion 8 -11 3
19 Burnley FC 7 -9 2
20 Sheffield United FC 8 -10 1
Player Team Goals
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur FC 8
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City FC 8
Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Everton FC 8
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 8
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur FC 7
Bamford, Patrick Leeds United 7
Wilson, Callum Newcastle United FC 6
Watkins, Ollie Aston Villa FC 6
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United FC 5
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace FC 5
Ings, Danny Southampton FC 5
Grealish, Jack Aston Villa FC 4
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 4
Werner, Timo Chelsea FC 4
Maupay, Neal Brighton & Hove Albion FC 4
Jimenez, Raul Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 4
Rodriguez, James Everton FC 3
Jorginho Chelsea FC 3
Adams, Che Southampton FC 3
Ward-Prowse, James Southampton FC 3

Source: 101greatgoals.com