Mikel Arteta insists Gabriel Martinelli has a “bright future” at Arsenal despite a lack of first-team opportunities this season.
The 19-year-old forward joined the Gunners from Ituano in the summer of 2019, but has had injury issues and made only 13 appearances this campaign, with his last start coming against Manchester United in January.
He is the centre of talk from Arsenal fans and pundits, with former Gunners defender Martin Keown calling for Martinelli to be given more game time after last week’s 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool.
“That I understand,” boss Arteta said when asked about those who are calling for him to feature more.
“When the team is not winning enough football matches, we always look for someone else to do it. But we can name a few of those.
“I respect that, and Gabi is doing really well. He is doing better every day, he is getting the right development.
“We have to be a little bit patient with him but he has a bright future at the club and he will have all the opportunities that he needs to show us how good he is and the career he can have with us.”
Arsenal have made a shift from experience to youth since Arteta took over, with Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka already establishing themselves in the side.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has also found himself on the bench in recent weeks, but Arteta believes Martinelli’s time will come.
“Because we cannot put six or seven young kids out there. We need some cohesion, we need the timing,” Arteta said.
“Gabi has a lot of things to improve. He has got big qualities as well, and we have other players in those positions.
“Then we have to create links within the team and balance within the team. This will come.”