Mikel Arteta was quick to praise Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Alex Lacazette for their hard work throughout last night’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea.
The Spaniard reserved special praise for the energy of the 18-year-old Brazilian who cancelled out the Blues’ opener with a stunning solo counter-attack.
The strike, his 10th of the season, means he’s the first teenager to hit double figures in a debut season for Arsenal since Nicolas Anelka. It bodes well for the future.
“To play in this stadium the way he’s done, and with 10 men, and to play against Azpilicueta who’s, in my opinion, one of the best defenders in the league…he was going against him every single time,” reflected Arteta.
“You need courage to do that. Then his energy…I wanted to take him off a few times because he looked knackered. He was cramping and the next minute he’s sprinting 60 yards again.”
Martinelli’s work rate was matched by Lacazette and Pepe who, while not getting on the scoresheet, grew into proceedings as the game grew stretched in the second period.
“Martinelli absolutely stepped up, but not just him,” added the boss. “I think Laca’s playing at a really good level and Nico [Pepe] as well.
“Everybody that’s coming in, they are fighting really hard in training to try to convince us to play them more.
“When they question some things, I tell them to speak on the pitch and this is them speaking on the pitch.”
Obviously, the next step is to get all three creating and scoring more chances. While last night was a particularly satisfying result given we were down to 10 men early on, the fact we only had two shots on target remains a concern. Luckily, after Monday night, we’ll have Aubameyang back from his suspension.