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Martinelli has ´so much to improve´ but Arteta hails forward´s impact against Leeds

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 18 Dec 2021

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Mikel Arteta hailed Gabriel Martinelli’s “huge” influence in Arsenal’s thrashing of Leeds United, but knows there is more to come from the forward.

Martinelli put Arsenal in control with a first-half double at Elland Road, with goals from Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe – either side of Raphinha’s penalty – securing a 4-1 win for the Gunners.

It ended a three-match losing streak on the road for Arsenal, who will head into Christmas four points clear of West Ham in fourth place in the Premier League.

Martinelli’s opener took Arsenal onto 7,000 top-flight goals, with the Gunners becoming only the third team, after Everton and Liverpool, to hit the milestone.

The Brazilian’s second brought up his first Premier League brace in his 39th such appearance, while with Saka and Smith Rowe also getting on the scoresheet, 14 of Arsenal’s 27 top-flight goals this season have been scored by players aged 21 or under.

Indeed, Arsenal had three different players aged 21 or younger score for them in a single Premier League game for the very first time.

At 20 years and 183 days, Martinelli became the youngest player to score a league double for Arsenal since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Crystal Palace in 2014 (20y 171d), and Arteta was full of praise for the attacker’s display, even if he believes there is much more to follow.

Asked by Sky Sports for his opinion on Martinelli’s impact, Arteta said: “Huge. That’s why you have to prepare a player.

“You can’t throw in a player when he’s not ready. He has so much still to improve. He’s very humble. His big passion in life is football.”

In an interview with BBC Sport, Arteta added: “That’s what he can do. He’s getting a level of maturity. He’s so willing to learn. You can see that on the pitch.”

Martinelli thrived in the continued absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has fallen out of favour with Arteta after a disciplinary matter.

“He wasn’t involved in today’s game. Let’s see. There’s a privacy matter at the moment that I have to respect,” Arteta told Sky Sports, perhaps suggesting Aubameyang’s absence was not just down to his previous indiscretion.

Arteta confirmed before the match that Arsenal had multiple coronavirus cases among their staff and some players, including midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga.

“Everyone is healthy. We always follow the guidelines,” he added.

“Now it’s play as you can and we’ll play as we can. The Premier League will make the best decision for everybody [about continuing or not].

“We want to play all under the same rules. That’s where I think they have to come forward. Whatever they decide is best for the competition, but it has to be explained.”

While Arsenal were able to celebrate, Leeds sit 16th with 16 points from their 18 games.

It is the joint-fewest points they have ever earned from their first 18 matches of any league campaign, along with 2006-07 in the Championship, assuming three points for a win.

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