Morning folks and welcome to Tuesday. Ahh, a full week in which Arteta can prep his team for Burnley, in which we can still feel the positive vibes from the win against Leicester, a week in which the grumpiness and vitriol online should be kept to a minimum. Or at least you’d hope. It is sad to hear that Emile Smith-Rowe has deactivated one of his social media profiles because of the abuse he has been receiving. I mean honestly, if you’re abusing a Hale End kid who has changed our fortunes this season, who has shown nothing but amazing promise and who seems like quite a nice lad, then you really do need your head seeing to. Smith-Rowe has been sensational since he broke through at Christmas. He’s still a kid at 20 and he plays like a 28-year-old in his prime who has been popping up on Premier League pitches for years. If you’re calling yourself and Arsenal fan and you are abusing Smith-Rowe, or any Arsenal player for that matter, then you aren’t really an Arsenal fan at all.
I have my issues with some players and there are some that I will grumble about in terms of their football or when they make a mistake on the pitch, but I wouldn’t go as far as abusing them. That’s because they are just human beings doing a job. I might not like the job some of them do and want them to do that job elsewhere, but I don’t really get why anyone would feel the need to hurl that abuse to them online. Directly messaging people to abuse them is the worst thing about the internet but sadly there is little the social media platforms want to do to properly cleanse their platforms of some of the abuse that is often personal and directed at these footballers.
So if we see people abusing players it is incumbent on us as fans to call out these idiots and certainly if I see people abusing footballers I will do so.
Now, on to something else, which is what I wanted to talk about today…Gabriel Martinelli. He’s been asked about a few times of late and Arteta was directly asked about him in the wake of the Leicester game and said this:
Well, he needs to keep working and making it difficult for us. He is a player that is going to give us a lot, but we need some time to find the right games for him and the right connections with him on the pitch so that he can do what he does best. But the way he is and the way he trains every day, he is going to be a really important player for us, no doubt. But when you have many options, it is difficult when you look for certain qualities in certain games.
That sounds very familiar – the first bit at least – like some of the comments that Arteta was making about Maitland-Niles last season. Certainly pre the semi final, then also at the beginning of this season. Perhaps it is just me cobbling together Arteta quotes in my mind and blurring what he actually said and meant about Ainsley, but I read this quote above and wondered what lies in store for Gabby for the rest of this season. Arteta has always spoken positively about him, but it always feels tempered a little bit to me. As well as that, one of the issues Maitland-Niles had as he was finding his way in the first team, was that he never really nailed down his ‘position’. He was so versatile that he never quite became the ‘master of all trades’ that could have seen his Arsenal career explode. I really hope that isn’t the case for Martinelli. Arteta talking about the ‘right connections’ on the pitch, or about ‘certain qualities’ for certain matches, does make me a little bit concerned that Martinelli won’t get his chance. We’ve already had all different types of games in which a different approach has been needed. On Sunday Leicester sat back and look to give us the ball and potentially hit us on the counter (which they never really did). Against Benfica it was a high line. Man City had most possession and so it would have been us needing to break on them quickly and against Leeds you have a team that leave you space with which you can position your players. So in my view in the last three weeks alone we’ve had four different types of football match that has played out, yet Martinelli never got a look in.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Arteta doesn’t rate him, but I do wonder how he’s going to get enough game time for the remainder of the season at this rate. What is the right ‘type’ of match for Martinelli? What are the right ‘connections’ that he needs to have on the pitch? I don’t know the answer, I don’t have access to the knowledge that Arteta has, but I do know that footballers just want to play football. And having spent a long time out, Martinelli will just want to play football to make up for lost time. So if he isn’t given chances then the very real worry I think we should all have is that he starts to think that his career lays away from Arsenal.
That would be a huge mistake I think. He has already proven how good he can be with goals, his energy and the way in which he can impact games for us. I don’t think Arteta wants to freeze him out, I do believe Arteta rates him and that he just can’t get him in to the team just yet, which is fine. But there is a long-term scenario here in which a few games becomes half a season and Martinelli starts to get itchy feet and looks for an exit.
Hey, maybe I’m just being paranoid and maybe there is a plan for him to get minutes throughout the season. Maybe come the summer we’ll have a better idea and today’s musing will just be a silly worry that I had with too much time to think in between matches. But until we get evidence to the contrary I suspect I will continue to have this ever-so-slight niggling doubt about us losing what I think is a fantastic young and precocious talent.
Catch you all tomorrow with some more thoughts on Arsenal-related stuff.