Mikel Arteta has already told Gabriel Martinelli why he isn’t in the Arsenal starting lineup

Sunday’s win over Leicester was pretty much the perfect day for Arsenal.

The Gunners won their first game on the road against a top three opponent, Willian was back on from, Nicolas Pepe scored and they even briefly went above Spurs!

Speaking after the match Mikel Arteta revealed that the performance at the King Power was one of the closest he has seen to what he wants from his Arsenal side.

“The team is clearly improving, it’s taking a direction I like. It’s about consistency,” he said.

“We are still giving things to the opposition – we did it against Benfica and we did it today. It’s something we have to eradicate to give ourselves the best possible chance.

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“It’s about how we played against top quality opposition. We have to impose ourselves, it doesn’t matter who we play against, we have to have courage. I’m proud about winning but obviously the way we’ve done it.

“The way we are playing looks much closer to what we want. The way the team is evolving, we have some consistency in recent months.”

For one man though, the game represented yet another frustrating afternoon.

Since the turn of the year Gabriel Martinelli has played just 53 minutes across two appearances in the Premier League for Arsenal.

It’s not as if he’s been a regular in the cup competitions either. An injury in the warm up kept him out of the FA Cup third round tie against Newcastle, while he last just 58 minutes before being hooked in the fourth round defeat to Southampton.

In the Europa League he was given just 13 minutes across both ties with Benfica despite the fact that the Gunners needed a two goal turnaround with half an hour remaining of the second leg.

It’s strange when you think back to how quickly Martinelli was thrust back into the first team picture towards the end of last year.

Gabriel Martinelli in action for Arsenal (Image: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

After just one half of football at under-23 level following a six month injury layoff the Brazilian was brought back into the first team fold in the Premier League against Everton.

He then started the Carabao Cup quarter final against Manchester City as well as back to back festive fixtures against Chelsea and Brighton as Arsenal got back to winning ways in the Premier League.

Since then though it’s been slim pickings for the man dubbed the “talent of the century” by Jurgen Klopp.

Asked about his lack of minutes after the Benfica game Mikel Arteta admitted the wealth of options he has in the attacking areas has been a key factor.

“Everybody has raised the level in recent weeks,” he said. “Since Christmas the front players have given us something different.

“Laca has given us some really good spells, Nicolas Pepe is the same. I was really pleased with Willian yesterday because of the way he trains and he is starting to produce in games.

“Everybody has to step up in games and create big moments because the front players at the end have to be the ones who decide it for us.”

In fairness to Arteta he is not wrong.

Nicolas Pepe has four goals in his last seven Premier League starts, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has five in his last four, while Alexandre Lacazette has scored six times since Christmas and the brilliance of Bukayo Saka pretty much goes without saying.

Fans frustration was coming in part from the fact that Willian was consistently being given opportunities over his compatriot, but in the past two matches the 32-year-old has doubled his assist tally for the entire season (from three to six).

Willian registered two assists as Arsenal beat Leicester City 2-1 in the Premier League on Sunday.
Willian registered two assists as Arsenal beat Leicester City 2-1 in the Premier League on Sunday.

It’s trick to see where Martinelli’s next minutes are going to come from at this point, although Arteta has thrown down the gauntlet for the youngster to earn his place like everybody else.

“He needs to keep working and make things difficult for us,” he said.

“He’s a player who is going to give us a lot but he needs some time and we need to find the right games for him, the right connections with him on the pitch to do what he can do best.”

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“The way he is and the way he trains every day he’s going to be a really important player for us,” he said.

“When you have many options sometimes it’s difficult when you look for certain qualities in certain games.”

It seems opportunities will be there for Martinelli later on this season. The question now is if he is going to be able to take them.

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