Gabriel Martinelli is ‘very close’ to becoming a regular starter for Arsenal, reveals Mikel Arteta

The Gunners have put together four consecutive wins in the Premier League
The Gunners have put together four consecutive wins in the Premier League (Picture: Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta has admitted Gabriel Martinelli is ‘very close’ to landing a regular starting berth for Arsenal but urged the teenage forward to ‘keep fighting’ to get even nearer.

The 19-year-old scored his second goal of the season to help fire the Gunners to victory against Crystal Palace on Wednesday night, with his stoppage-time finish the decisive intervention in a 3-1 win at Selhurst Park.

Nicolas Pepe scored the opener for his side in the first half but they were pegged back by the Eagles when Christian Benteke headed in Andros Townsend’s free-kick just after the hour mark.

Arteta urged Martinelli to 'keep fighting'
Arteta urged Martinelli to ‘keep fighting’ (Picture: Getty Images)

With the scores level at 1-1 in injury time, Martinelli popped up on the end of Martin Odegaard’s cross and put Arteta’s side 2-1, before Pepe grabbed his brace with a fine finish following a mazy run in the box.

Martinelli has had to be patient this season with starts proving difficult to come by following his return from a serious knee injury in December.

The Brazilian sent a clear message to his manager after the victory over Palace by insisting that he is ‘always ready’ to be called upon.

And when asked how close Martinelli is to starting, Arteta said: ‘Very close and he needs to keep fighting to be closer and closer.

‘We need to understand where the boys are and the phase of their development, what they have done already this season and last season.

‘I know that we want to play with 11 academy players and all under 20, but guys, who is doing that? I think we’ve done it more than anybody.

‘They’re going to have their chances and they’re earning their chances, we’re not just giving the chances they’re earning them, absolutely earning their chances and it’s a joy to have them.’

The Gunners’ youngsters including Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka have been bright sparks in an otherwise dismal campaign for the north London club.

Arteta’s side currently occupy ninth place in the Premier League table with just one game left to play – against Brighton on the final day of the season.

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