Arsenal’s biggest game of the season is fast approaching.
A disappointing 1-1 draw in the first-leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Slavia Prague last week means the Gunners have it all to do on Thursday night.
Conceding a crucial away goal means Arsenal must score in the Czech Republic in order to have any chance of reaching the semi-final and keep their hopes of playing Champions League football next season alive.
A repeat of that scoreline will be enough to see the north London outfit into the semi-final and potentially set up a reunion with former head coach Unai Emery – now in charge of La Liga side Villarreal.
Ahead of the return leg against Slavia Prague, former Arsenal defender Martin Keown thinks Arteta has hinted at the three players who will start the Europa League decider.
One of which is Gabriel Martinelli who marked his return to the starting XI with a goal.
“There’s been a lot of talk about Arsenal’s recruitment and if they paid too much for individuals, but this guy,” Keown said on BT Sport. “It’s a snip what they paid for him at £6m. This really will help him, what are we now? 14 months since he scored at this point.
“He’s had injuries, ACL. He’s an instinctive finisher, he knows where to run.
“The key players were all taken off today: Saka, Martinelli and Lacazette – he’s taken them off because he wants to play them on Thursday.
“It depends. You’ve got Smith Rowe to think about, Aubameyang as well to come back in, do you put Saka at left-back?
“I’ve almost felt like I’ve been signing a petition to get him [Martinelli] into the team – he’s a great talent.
The summer transfer window is just around the corner.
And the rumour mill is already starting to pick up speed.
Arsenal will not have a huge amount of money to spend, but Mikel Arteta will be hoping to make a number of moves, with loanee Martin Odegaard high up the list of priorities to bring in on a permanent deal.
But who would you sign? Get involved in our transfer window debate here.
“We have to look at it and say: Okay, has there been an underlying injury? Are there other reasons why he hasn’t been in the team? But now he’s in the team, I think he vindicates that decision, I don’t think you can take him out now.”
Keown’s comments would suggest that Arteta has discovered his latest Arsenal untouchable following the win over the Blades.
The likes of Bernd Leno, Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, and Bukayo Saka have already nailed down a place in the Gunners XI, and it remains to be seen if Martnelli can get an extended run in the side.