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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta may have teased Gabriel Martinelli plan in training sessions

Arsenal: The remaining Premier League fixtures

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Gabriel Martinelli has endured a tough period at Arsenal since breaking into the first-team picture last season. The teenage forward thoroughly impressed in attack for the Gunners, scoring a memorable goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to burst onto the scene, but suffered a serious knee injury in June that kept him out of action for six months at a crucial point in his development as a player.

Many Arsenal fans would have been expecting Martinelli to take up a regular role in the side upon his return.

However, he has rarely been called upon by Mikel Arteta this season, playing just 63 minutes in the Premier League since the turn of the year.

The 19-year-old came on as a late substitute during the 3-3 draw with West Ham United on Sunday, but had not featured for Arsenal in any their previous seven domestic outings.

The Brazil native is a versatile attacker, capable of excelling in any role across the front three, with his continued absence from the side leaving many onlookers scratching their heads.

Although Martinelli has struggled for Premier League minutes this season, Arteta is known to be a huge fan of the youngster and is highly unlikely to have cast him aside without the prospect of a first-team return.

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One explanation for the forward’s predicament could be that Arteta sees him as a centre-forward and not a winger, the role he often took up during the second half of last season.

The Spaniard revealed after Arsenal’s victory over West Ham United twelve months ago that he would like to play Martinelli as a central striker, but the club’s lack of options out wide has been forcing him to fill round holes with square pegs.

“[Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martinelli] are [centre forwards],” Arteta told FourFourTwo. “But with the squad balance that we have at the moment, to play on those positions on the left we don’t have players.

“We are using one [left-winger] to play as a left-back [Bukayo Saka] and he is not a left-back so we’re just trying to adapt to the situation that we have today, trying to create an amount of goal threat that can be successful for the team. That’s part of managing the players that we have.”

Despite his claims last year, Arteta appears to be preparing Martinelli to play in a wide role once again if a recent training session is anything to go by.

During a practice match at London Colney, the youngster was deployed on the right flank and performed brilliantly, scoring an impressive goal to stake his claim for a starting spot in the near future.

The role could mark a new venture for Martinelli, who has been used on the left or through the middle for the vast majority of his Arsenal career.

Arteta’s decision suggests that Aubameyang could return to the tip of the Gunners’ attacking trident after featuring out wide for the majority of the current campaign.

The Gabon international played as a right winger at the London Stadium on Sunday but built his reputation as one of Europe’s finest forwards in a central role.

It remains to be seen how Arsenal will line up for the visit of Liverpool after the international break and whether Martinelli will be involved in any capacity.

However, with his potential new role providing a fresh chance to impress, a swift return to the first-team picture could be on the cards.

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