Mikel Arteta says Gabriel Martinelli produced one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt after the Brazilian helped the Gunners to an impressive 2-0 win over West Ham United.
The 20-year-old gave the Gunners the lead with a composed finish two minutes after the break and was later awarded the man of the match award having hassled and harried the Hammers defence all evening.
Having been in and out of the side over the last year, the last couple of weeks have felt like a second coming for a player who set tongues wagging when he first broke into the team under Unai Emery.
Arteta believes a growing understanding of the game is paying dividends.
“It was one of the best in every aspect of the game,” said the Spaniard of Martinelli’s showing.
“He was cramping again and he needs to mature in that sense but his overall understanding of the game is getting much better.
“He’s able to put some gears into his play. Sometimes he’s still doing everything at 100 miles per hour but the energy and quality he shows at times is top.”
That Martinelli’s young cohorts also keep impressing is further reason for Arteta to feel pleased with the direction his team are heading.
Bukayo Saka assisted substitute Emile Smith Rowe for Arsenal’s second goal; one that was celebrated with gusto on the terraces and that tipped the club into a positive goal difference for the first time this season.
“I think it helps because some of them know each other from the academy,” said Arteta of the youngsters growing up together in the first team.
“The chemistry is there. I really like the link and the way the senior players are contributing as well.
“They really enjoy helping those boys in a context that at times has been difficult. They’ve been really consistent.”
In the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang, Alex Lacazette wore the captain’s armband and underlined his credentials for taking on the role until the end of the season. The Frenchman may have missed a penalty which he himself had won, but his overall performance was eye-catching and he cut a vocal presence.
On the Frenchman relishing the captaincy, Arteta said: “Absolutely – but Laca has always been like that in the dressing room. You see the way he acts with the young players, how willing he is to help.
“It’s in his nature. He’s not a selfish player. He’s happy when he makes the rest better, and he’s like that in the dressing room as well.”
He added: “He’s the next in line [for the captaincy] and he’s taken it the way everybody saw today – with such a pride and commitment, and I’m really happy with the way he played.”