Mikel Arteta has warned Arsenal supporters not to heap pressure on fit-again forward Gabriel Martinelli to solve the club’s current woes as he backed his “fighters” to turn things around.
Defeat at Everton on Saturday leaves the Gunners 15th in the table and without a Premier League win since November 1 – a run of seven games where they have taken just two points.
A toothless attack has been part of the problem. Only the current bottom three sides have managed fewer than Arsenal’s 12 goals and now captain and usual go-to goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is sidelined with a calf problem.
He missed the 2-1 loss at Goodison Park and will be out of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final clash at home to Manchester City, where Arteta may shuffle his pack, and faces another scan on the problem to establish the severity of the issue.
Martinelli returned from a nine-month absence following a serious knee injury to play 19 minutes off the bench against Everton.
The 19-year-old hit 10 goals in his first season at the Emirates Stadium before being ruled out since March and the team’s recent struggle for goals has seen an increase in supporters calling for the Brazilian’s immediate return to the team.
But Arteta has urged caution with Martinelli, who is in contention to be involved against City and may get more minutes during the packed festive schedule.
“We cannot put that pressure on his shoulders,” he replied when asked about fans hailing Martinelli as the man to save Arsenal’s season.
“It’s not fair for him. He brings that enthusiasm that the fans can see because he’s got something special, a special energy every time he steps on that field.
“But remember that Gabi, what he’s done in the Premier League, the time that he’s been with us is very limited. Let him develop, like we are doing with many other young kids that we have here.
“It’s the same with many other young players that are probably taking more responsibility than perhaps they should do in this moment.
“It’s the squad that we have at the moment and what we have to manage. They have to try to do their best but I don’t think it’s fair to put all the pressure on them now as well.”
Arteta’s position as Arsenal boss is coming under increasing scrutiny due to the poor run of results and performances and he has received public backing from both chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and technical director Edu over the past 10 days.
The Spaniard, who took the job just over a year ago, has suggested he has no plans to walk away and feels he has a squad of players who are willing to fight to address the slump.
“You have two types of people: fighters and victims,” he added.
“You need fighters and you don’t want any victims. Victims bring excuses, victims bring negativity and they start to blame anything that is happening around them or is not going their way. You need people who fight, people who contribute and people who are ready to give everything to the club in this moment.
“From within the club everything I am feeling is just support, encouragement, and total confidence that we will get through this together.
“Externally I never read what is happening, I know more or less what is happening but I never read it: in beautiful moments I don’t read it, in difficult moments I don’t read it, I just try to focus on the job and what I have to do.
“But obviously a club of this stature deserves the best and when it is not happening, everyone is going to question what is happening. I am the most responsible one in terms of results, so I have to accept that.”