In welcome news, Mikel Arteta says Gabriel Martinelli is very close to a first team return.
The 19-year-old Brazilian, who has been in full training for a couple of weeks, completed 45 minutes with the under-21s on 9 December and looks set to play for the under-23s when they face Leicester at Meadow Park this evening.
Assuming he comes through unscathed, he could well make the bench for next week’s Carabao Cup quarter-final with Manchester City. With Premier League clubs voting to increase the number of players named on the subs bench from seven to nine for the rest of the season, he could well be an option throughout the busy Christmas period.
While Arteta used Martinelli sparingly in the weeks prior to the UK’s March lockdown, the striker had already made a big impact in his debut season at the Emirates scoring 10 goals in 26 appearances.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash with Everton, Arteta revealed: “Gabriel Martinelli is very close to being available and fit to be part of us as well, which is great news.”
He went on to lavish praise on the youngster for his attitude in training: “Gabi is pure enthusiasm, energy, belief, charisma and goals. And this is him.
“He’s around the training ground and he’s around our training sessions and the energy is different because he goes 100 miles per hour.
“He’s got this passion and his way of playing and he is a threat. He’s a player that we’ve been missing because he brings something special to the team.
“He’s contagious with his attitude and I think it’s going to be a big boost when we have him.”