Since Mikel Arteta’s arrival, Reiss Nelson has received more gametime than any other youngster at Arsenal and has been afforded the opportunity to steadily improve his form. That was due to his skillset and ability to stay out wide in order to stretch the opponent’s defense line which Arteta found very useful to his attacking philosophy. But with Nicolas Pépé’s regaining a place in the attacking lineup, the Hale-End product has had to sit it out.
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s red card on Saturday against Crystal Palace has improved the odds of Reiss Nelson coming back into the lineup, the reasoning being that the youngster has pretty much adapted to Arteta’s demands and has managed to look less worse than he previously had under Unai Emery. But the argument is narrow and lacking nuance.
It isn’t anyone else who got injured but the outright leading goal threat in the team. Aubameyang has scored nearly 50% of all Premier League goals for Arsenal this season. His absence significantly reduces Arsenal’s goalscoring ability and Reiss Nelson is simply not the best like for like replacement available.
Enter Gabriel Martinelli, the freescoring teenage striker-cum-winger. Potentially able to slot into the same inside forward role as Aubameyang under Arteta and very much Premier League capable, it would be a gamble to not unleash the Brazilian against Sheffield United on the weekend. With a goal and an assist recorded already in the EPL and 8 more goal contributions in other competitions, Martinelli represents more of a direct goal threat than Reiss Nelson.
If his limited minutes on the pitch against Crystal Palace was an audition, then Martinelli passed with flying colours as he repeatedly threatened the Eagles’ unsuspecting defence and created the chance which Pépé struck against the upright pole.
Ahead of the game against Sheffield United, it seemed as though Arteta was issuing a challenge to the 18-year-old. “You come on there, you make the impact that he made and you assure me that you are as good as him or even better. You have the chance.” the Boss said.
Driven and energetic, Gabriel Martinelli fits like a glove into Arteta’s pressing scheme and it would be surprising if the youngster doesn’t earn a deserved starting place at the Emirates over any other person.