Mikel Arteta is eager for Arsenal attacker Gabriel Martinelli to continue developing in the same way and warned not to burden the teenager with unnecessary pressure.
The 18-year-old scored in the 2-2 draw at Chelsea on Tuesday, racing clear from inside his own half before showing great composure to find the net.
It was Martinelli’s 10th goal of the campaign and made him the first teenager to reach double figures in a season for Arsenal since Nicolas Anelka.
After signing from Ituano in the summer, there was little expectation on the forward, but he has emerged as a real plus point and recently filled the void of the suspended Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang by netting in the Gunners last two matches.
💬 "He turns up early every day. He does all the stuff and everything anyone asks him to do. He is the first player to press and the last player to leave everything on the pitch."
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 22, 2020
“I would like to talk about potential, more than what it is at the moment because for him there is still a long way,” Arteta said.
“The stature of this club, to give him the key to do that straight away is not fair on him. We have to bring him down.
“I want him to train with his head down every day hard and slowly he will start to earn the praise if he does what he needs to do every day, but it is not about one or two days.”
Head coach Arteta admitted he was surprised by how prepared Martinelli was to compete in the first-team when he first took over last month.
The Spaniard had been told plenty of positive traits about his fighting spirit and quality in front of goal, which quickly were rubber-stamped and the teen is expected to start again in the FA Cup at Bournemouth on Monday.
Arteta added: “I heard a lot of things about Gabi before I joined and the moment I saw (him) in training, it was confirmed the things I was told before.
“I think the way he competes and how brave he is in every decision on that pitch is very unusual for an 18-year-old.
“He competed against one of the best defenders in the league, in (Cesar) Azpilicueta, and he got at him every time he had a chance. His fighting spirit is incredible and then he is a threat for goal every time.”
Gabi’s gonna be a superstar 🙏🏽 Not because of the Goal because of the attitude Energy and mindset ☝🏽
— Aubameyang P-E (@Aubameyang7) January 18, 2020
Asked if Martinelli’s form was so good it would make recalling Aubameyang difficult, the 37-year-old disagreed, but he did admit the young striker currently deserves to remain in the team due to his recent performances.
What Arteta is worried by, however, is supporters and others at the club expecting the Brazil Under-23 international to consistently deliver displays like he did against Chelsea.
“That is the risk and not just him, but all of us and me included and the club and the people around him,” Arsenal’s head coach insisted.
“We have to support him and protect him. We cannot just give him the license to think he can do that every single day and he needs to do that and put himself under that pressure when he can maybe get blocked a little bit.
“It is completely the opposite. He needs to play with that freedom where he has the license to do what he wants to do on the pitch, but with the pressure really that it doesn’t always have to be him to do it.”