Martin Keown told the BT Sport coverage of Arsenal’s game with Sheffield United at the weekend that Mikel Arteta has to start Gabriel Martinelli against Slavia Prague on Thursday night.
The former defender has been waxing lyrical about the youngster’s talent all season; with Arteta using him sparingly after a spell on the sidelines with injury.
He unleashed the Brazilian during Sunday’s game with the Blades and watched on as the 19-year-old netted during a 3-0 victory for the Gunners.
Martinelli enjoyed a decent first season in English football. He scored 10 goals and claimed four assists despite missing several games through injury.
Since returning, he’s been used in cameo roles, with the boss holding him back from regular starts in the first team.
Keown isn’t a fan of such a strategy and has implied to BT Sport that he should start more frequently for the Gunners.
He said: “It was a snip what they paid for this guy. The goal will really help him. He’s been through a lot, 15 months since he last scored, he’s had his injuries, he ACL. He’s instinctive and he knows where to run.
“I’ve almost felt like I’ve been signing a petition to get him in the team. He’s a great talent.
“We have to look at it and say ok, has there been an underlying injury? Are there other reasons why he’s not been in the team? Now he’s in the team, I think he vindicates the selection and he should stay in the team.
“I don’t think you can take him out now.”
TBR View: Big decision for Arteta over Martinelli
The £90,000-a-week player made a mockery of Arteta’s decision not to select him at the weekend and the Spaniard now has a decision to make.
Martinelli was flying last season and with Arsenal struggling for a spark in the final third this season his omission does seem strange.
Now, the boss has to keep him in the picture as he does offer the Gunners something a bit different in the final third.
Martinelli is a player who excites the fans and Arteta could win over a lot of supporters by handing the youngster a run of games in the team.