Arteta: Southampton defeat has left players feeling ‘really down’
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Arsenal’s top-four hopes are slipping away from their grasp once again after Saturday’s defeat against Southampton. But one option that could help turn Mikel Arteta’s fortunes around is handing Gabriel Martinelli the chance to lead the line.
The Gunners have lost their last three league matches to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton. In all honesty, these are teams with significantly lower budgets and transfer spend than the north London side — and taking six points should have been the minimum requirement. So to walk away with zero highlights a growing problem.
Arsenal are dominating games as Arteta would demand from his players, but they lack the clinical finish to put away their chances. It is damaging their chances of finishing in the top four, with north London rivals Tottenham four points clear with only seven games remaining.
The Brazilian, who joined Arsenal for £6million from Ituano in 2019, made a fine impression in his debut season at the age of just 18, scoring 10 goals in 26 appearances in all competitions. Under Unai Emery and then Arteta, he was used as a striker and also a left winger, but has gradually gravitated towards the latter role.
While there is no doubt the youngster is adept at playing in the wide role, Arsenal’s attacking troubles may call for a position swap. A player with Martinelli’s intelligent movement and clinical finishing might be more effective closer to the goal in a central area, with Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe able to fill in on the left.
Since allowing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to rip up his contract and join Barcelona, the Gabonese has outscored his former club with nine goals for the Blaugrana. Meanwhile, Arteta has been left with an ageing Alexandre Lacazette and out-of-form Eddie Nketiah, both of whom are out of contract this summer.
Arteta tried and failed to bring in a marquee signing in the January transfer window, having been snubbed by Dusan Vlahovic. And while his summer priorities will be fixated on capturing a new forward, the Spaniard can only use the options at his disposal — and as Paul Merson said earlier this month, Martinelli should be considered.
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“If I were Mikel Arteta, I’d start playing Gabriel Martinelli up front,” Merson told Sportskeeda. “Arsenal could spend a lot of money on a striker, but the player they’re looking for might already be at the club. Martinelli is lively and quick – he has what it takes. He should get a run till the end of the season, and might save Arsenal £70m.”
The player himself has addressed where he prefers to play in the past and insisted he would be happy to play wherever Arteta needs him. “I have played on the wings growing up, but I can play in the middle as well, or on the sides. I can do whatever the manager wants me to do,” he told The Athletic.
Right now, Arteta needs a striker who can score goals after side failed to get on the scoresheet against Palace and Southampton, and wasted chances galore against the latter. If they are serious about finishing in the top four, converting Martinelli into a No9 seems like the most logical choice to stop the rot.
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