Mikel Arteta says he’s expecting “big things” from Gabriel Martinelli even though the player’s return from injury has been a bit stop-start so far.
Sidelined by knee surgery for the best part of seven months, the Brazilian featured in four consecutive games towards the tail-end of 2020, peaking with an all-action performance in the Boxing Day win over Chelsea.
There were fears the 20-year-old could be facing another lengthy lay-off when he turned his ankle in the warm-up prior to the FA Cup win over Newcastle, but he recovered within a few days. All the same, it feels like the short break, which saw him miss three games, took the wind from the player’s sails.
Against Southampton on Saturday, Gabi lasted 66 minutes before Arteta replaced him in an attempt to spark a dysfunctional Gunners attack. While the player hadn’t had the impact he might have wanted, at least he wasn’t injured.
“He was [physically] fine, it was a tactical decision [to sub him] and he is fine,” Arteta said afterwards.
“He has missed a few training sessions with the last injury, but I expect big things from Gabi.
“He has been really helpful since he joined again after such a long period, so I am positive about it.”
Arsenal return to Southampton tomorrow night and may well call on Martinelli to replace captain Piette-Emerick Aubameyang, who could miss out due to a personal matter.
“I don’t have enough information to see how things are evolving and hopefully things will go in the right direction,” said the boss about the situation.
Having been dumped out of the FA Cup by the Saints, the second clash with Ralph Hassenhutl’s team inside four days isn’t something the boss is relishing.
“I don’t think that any manager or players like to play the same opponent twice,” said Arteta.
“Obviously we will take things from Saturday’s game that we will analyse, we have already talked about them and will try to make them better in the next game. The one I really want to change is the result, because I want to win the game.”