Tag Archives: She Wore A Yellow Ribbon

Has Gabriel Martinelli ended Eddie Nketiah’s career at Arsenal

When Arsenal agreed the deal to take then 17-year-old Gabriel Martinelli, I was concerned that it would send a negative message it would send to the academy.

The worry was that we had a lot of good young attacking talent in our academy and U23s. From Eddie Nketiah, Tyreece John-Jules, Folarin Balogun to Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka on the wings.

At the time I felt that if Martinelli was being signed to go into the academy squad rather than the 1st team squad, it would be a blow for talented teenagers who had been at the club since primary school days.

My opinion was simple. If Martinelli was to join, it would be to be in and around the 1st team. It was only worthwhile signing him if he was already better than every single one of those aforementioned players.

A decision was made in the summer to send Nketiah on loan.

At 20-years-old, he had spent a few years already playing U23 football and it was clearly a level below him. Even at international youth level, he looks too good for his age group.

The problem he faced was that at Arsenal he had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette ahead of him. Two world class strikers.

Nketiah needed game time and with Arsenal playing 1 up top, that would have been restrictive – even in the League Cup and Europa League where Unai Emery would have gone with whichever one of his two top strikers was playing second fiddle to the other.

So Nketiah was too good for age group football, yet not quite good enough to get regular minutes in Arsenal’s first team. A loan deal made complete sense.

Off to Leeds United Nketiah went where he has been in good form; already scoring 4 goals this season. However he has yet to make a league start for 2nd in the table for Leeds.

The original plan would have been that Nketiah’s loan deal would be his chance to shine.

A good season at Leeds and he would return to the club a man. 21-years-old and ready to push Aubameyang and Lacazzete. Position himself as a genuine option when 30-year-old Aubameyang’s legs go and he leaves for China or America (it will happen within 2 seasons).

But what has happened whilst he Nketiah has been on loan is he has had to watch on as Arsenal’s new young Brazilian has quickly established himself as a fans favourite.

The situation at Arsenal changed quickly.

An injury to Lacazette left Emery with just the one senior striker. This resulted in him having to look at which teenager would lead the line in the Europa League and League Cup.

Aubameyang started the 1st Europa League game against Eintracht Frankfurt, with Martinelli on the bench. But the young Brazilian was given his chance against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup – scoring twice.

That performance was enough to convince Emery that it was not worth risking Aubameyang in Europe. That Martinelli would be his man for mid-week.

Against Standard Liege Martinelli doubled his goal tally for Arsenal to 4 for the season, adding an exquisite assist in the process. He had arrived.

At this point it is important to point out the importance of not over hyping him.

I have seen some already labelling him the next Carlos Tevez. But he is 18-years-old with two good performances against Nottingham Forest and Standard Leige. We should not be putting him in the starting line-up for Premier League teams yet.

With the performances of Martinelli, it is easy to forget that he is only just 18-years-old. It is that which makes him so exciting.

Time is on his side. There is no need to rush he progression. He will still be a teenager in 2021!

What has impressed about Martinelli the most is his all-round game.

His has shown so far that he can score poacher’s goals, headers and wonder strikes. He has a high work rate, putting pressure on defenders, and is capable of getting involved in the build up play. He could become a complete striker.

Meanwhile Nketiah is a little bit more of a simple striker. He is a finisher, like Ian Wright. He will score goals, a lot of goals. But he will not contribute much else to the team. In modern football, can you really afford to have a striker who is only a goal scorer? Not sure.

The problem Nketiah now faces is that Martinelli is likely to get 6-10 starts this season in the Europa League, League Cup and FA Cup.

If Martinelli continues his current level of performance, and Nketiah does not go and bang in 20+ Championship goals, the Englishman will return to North London behind in the pecking order.

That would leave a 21-year-old Nketiah as 4th choice striker at Arsenal – a team that play one up top. And one of the players ahead of him is 2 years younger, the other 2 will be world class performers.

So role forward 12 months, Aubameyang and Lacazette are combining in Arsenal’s 1st XI and Martinelli is on the bench in the Premier League, starting in the lesser competitions. Where does that leave Nketiah?

At 21-years-old he could still play for the U23 team. But following a season on loan to a top Championship side, that will be a step back.

Another loan deal could be an option, but if at 21 he is not yet ready, and with a (then) 19-year-old ahead of him, a loan deal will be very different to this season. It will not be a case of “you are a young player, go out on loan, perform and next season you will be part of 1st team plans” as 2021/22 Martinelli will still be ahead of him. And just 20.

The other problem Nketiah faces is those other players coming up from behind.

Arsenal have a pair of 18-year-old strikers in Tyreece John-Jules and Folarian Balogun who are next on the Hale End production line.

Next summer Edu will have to decide whether it is worthwhile continuing to develop a Nketiah, or start concentrating on those who are younger.

In the same way arsenal’s focus went from Benik Afobe to Chuba Akpom, then from Akpom to eddie Nketiah; next summer might become a time where a decision is made to let Nketiah go and introduce John-Jules and Balogun to 1st team training, pre-season tours and cup appearances.

Arsenal could well decide to cash in on Nketiah,

Liverpool have done well recently moving on the likes of Dominic Solanke, Kevin Stewart, Jerome Sinclair and Jordon Ibe. Those 4 raised nearly £46million after the Champions League winners decided that they did not have the quality for the highest level.

If Arsenal did decide to sell Nketiah, there would be plenty of Premier League interest.

Would it be unrealistic for Arsenal to command a fee northwards of £20million for him? I would imagine if Leeds did get promoted, they would be very interested in making his loan deal permanent.

So bids for £20m+ for Nketiah come in. He is 4th choice striker and we have teenagers chomping at the bit to get ahead of him. The time might be up for the youngster.

Keenos

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Match Report: Arsenal 4 – 0 Standard Liège

Arsenal (3) 4 Standard Liège (0) 0
UEFA Europa League, Group F, Matchday 2 of 6
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Thursday, 3rd October 2019. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Emiliano Martínez; Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney; Lucas Torreira, Dani Ceballos; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson; Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pépé, Calum Chambers, Mattéo Guendouzi, Sead Kolašinac, Granit Xhaka.
Scorers: Gabriel Martinelli (13 mins, 16 mins), Joe Willock (22 mins), Dani Ceballos (56 mins)
Yellow Cards: Hector Bellerins
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 62%
Referee: Sandro Schärer (Switzerland)
Attendance circa 50,000

Such a definitive scoreline, such a night for youth and exuberance as well. With ten changes on the team-sheet, Unai Emery was taking a calculated gamble with his academy players in the North London rain. Could they perform at this level? Would they rise to the challenge of a Europa League home tie? Should they be risked? Affirmative to all three questions asked, m’lud.

Of all the young guns that played tonight, 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli was the name and the man who stood out, and not just because of his brace of goals either. His awareness on and off the ball is truly other-worldly, and his desire to win is unbelievable; what is even more incredible about him is that he was playing for Ituano in the fourth division of the Brazilian League this time last year. He has now scored four goals in two starts for us, and he shows no signs of slowing down nor stopping, which is great news for us, and bad news for the rest of the Premiership.

Arsenal started very sharply, with more than just a spring in their step. The visitors struggled to contain us, let alone create a decent goalscoring chance in the early stages of tonight’s match. Indeed, it was the excellent Gabriel Martinelli who broke the resolve of Standard Liège after just thirteen minutes with a breathtaking glancing header provided by full-back Kieran Tierney with a superb pinpoint cross from the left; two minutes later, our Brazilian wonderkid struck again with an unstoppable shot expertly drilled past goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic who had absolutely no chance in keeping the ball out of the back of the net. Six minutes later, the match was firmly placed beyond the Belgians’ reach when Joe Willock (who is going from strength to strength with each match he plays) scored our third of the night. All this excitement in the first thirty minutes of the game! The rest of the half saw the visitors trying desperately to stem the tide of Arsenal’s forwards, which to be fair, they just about got away with.

The second half saw more of the same, which completely frustrated and perplexed Standard Liège to the point of annoyance, which of course led to them being handed two yellow cards for their trouble. Eight minutes after the restart, man-of-the-match Gabriel Martinelli turned from goalscorer into provider with a slick movement on the right that led to an inspired lob over the Liège goalie for Dani Ceballos to run in and bundle the ball over line; four-nil to Arsenal, thank you and good night. Unai Emery made his usual substitutions in the last half hour of the match; Nicolas Pépé for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mattéo Guendouzi for Joe Willock and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Reiss Nelson, all of which were merely a case of fresh legs replacing tired ones. By the time the final whistle came, the relief of the victory that echoed around the stadium became evident.

A great win, and hats off to the manager for having the foresight and intelligence to give the young ’uns a well deserved run out here tonight. They all played with youthful verve and vigour and kept their shape throughout, which at this level is an extremely difficult thing for any young player to do. But let us not get too carried away here; the real success will come when these players are able to carry on their good work when playing bigger clubs with tougher, battle-hardened professionals in their ranks. That will be the real victory. Tonight was great, put it away in the top pocket and remember it for future reference. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: AFC Bournemouth at The Emirates on Sunday, 6th October at 2.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.

Europa League is the place to be

This year the Europa League could be an enjoyable competition to be in.

Whilst we have been conditioned by the media to look at the Champions League with envious eyes, it is a competition which gave Arsenal fans very little joy in the 2 decades we played in it – there really is no joy being smashed 7-2.

2006 and the odd big away win aside, it become a competition that Arsenal fans became jaded of being in during the later years.

Whilst the Europa League might be the second competition, and frustratingly playing on a Thursday means more Sunday games, it is also a competition which has been enjoyable than the Champions League.

Arsenal have been awful in the Champions League, following the same blue print almost every season.

Cruise through the group stages before being knocked out by Barcelona, AC Milan or Bayern Munich. It was a competition we had little chance of winning. The Europa League, meanwhile, is a much more realistic chance of a trophy.

In the 2 years we have played in it, we have been semi-finalists and then finalists. The next logical step is that we go on to win it. A European trophy. Something which Arsenal have very few of. Something which Arsenal would unlikely achieve if playing Champions League football.

As the quality is also lower; it has provided a fantastic opportunity to watch our kids play.

The Champions League – the group stages especially – became boring. At least with the Europa League, you know that by turning up tonight against Standard Liege, you are going to see a load of youngsters play.

Against Eintracht Frankfurt we saw starts given to Emile Smith Rowe (who is out tonight), Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka. Tonight against Liege I expect Gabrielle Martinelli and Reiss Nelson to also be in the start XI – although Saka might be given a rest having played 90 minutes against Man U and likely to start on Sunday against Bournemouth.

So we will see a whole host of academy products in the starting XI as well as Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding continuing their rehabilitation. It will be a young, exciting team. Something that would not happen in the Champions League.

The Europa League has also bought up some fantastic trips.

Whilst in the Champions League, it felt like we were continually being drawn against the same times. Olympiakos, Marseille in the group stages. Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the knock outs.

The Europa League has seen us visit some new places in Central Europe and some fair flung places in Eastern Europe.

Liege away before Christmas will be a decent trip, as will Vitoria in a few weeks. Cologne is one trip that will be talked about for years. And those who made the long trips to Eastern Europe and beyond bonded over cheap beer and vodka.

I do miss the Champions League, mainly because I miss playing on Saturday. But I do not miss the boredom and predictability of the competition.

Lets turn up tonight. Embrace the Europa League, and back the kids.

 

Expected line up:

Martinez

Belelrin Mustafi Holding Tierney

Willock Maitland-Niles

Nelson Ozil Ceballos

Martinelli

Keenos