Mikel Arteta dropped a rather surprising hint about Gabriel Martinelli and Kieran Tierney following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Newcastle United.
Whilst the latter missed the trip to St James’ Park, the 19-year-old was restored to the starting XI for the first time since the 1-1 draw with Fulham and rewarded his manager’s faith with a confident display.
Interestingly, the Brazilian wonderkid had a spell out of the side following the goalless draw with Manchester United at the end of January.
And his return to the side and subsequent increased game time has coincided with Tierney‘s absence, with the Scotland defender having missed the last seven matches in all competitions through injury.
Speaking after the win over the Magpies, Arteta hinted at a slight problem in the link-up play between Martinelli and Tierney, suggesting the teenager benefitting from Granit Xhaka filling in as a makeshift left-back.
“Yeah, it is a connection there,” the Gunners boss told reporters. “I think having Granit behind him helps him in a way because he’s more in the line, in the last line, on the left when he is more comfortable.
“With Kieran it’s a little bit different.
“Those relationships we have to feel.”
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There is a simple way for Arteta to avoid this issue when Tierney is available for selection again and that’s by making one small tweak to his lineup.
Instead of playing Martinelli as a left-winger in front of the Scotland international, he could just ask the Brazilian to operate as the central striker and replicate a lethal partnership that fans got a glimpse of last season.
Martinelli certainly benefitted from Tierney’s pinpoint crossing to help himself to a couple of goals in the Europa League during the group phase against Standard Liege and Vitoria.