Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being absent for a prolonged period would be a problem for Arsenal but Mikel Arteta is expecting big things from Gabriel Martinelli.
Arsenal were without Aubameyang for their 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Southampton on Saturday after the Gabon international left the squad to attend to a personal matter.
Arteta was unsure how long the striker would be unavailable for, making him a doubt for the second straight game at St Mary’s Stadium – this time a Premier League meeting on Tuesday.
Aubameyang has struggled for form this season, scoring eight goals – three of which have come in his past three appearances – and supplying one assist in 20 outings in all competitions
“Of course, it would be a problem [if he was out long term] because he’s our top striker and the one who has scored the most goals,” Arteta told a news conference.
“He’s our captain and an important player in the team. We have to respect the time. Let’s see. I don’t have enough information right now to see how things are evolving and hopefully things will go in the right direction.”
Martinelli made his first start in three and a half weeks against Saints after overcoming an ankle injury and was replaced just before the hour mark.
Arteta confirmed Martinelli had not suffered a setback and he expected the 19-year-old to really start producing for the team.
“He was fine, it was a tactical decision. He’s missed a few training sessions from the last injury, but I expect big things from Gabi,” said Arteta.
“He’s been really helpful since he joined again after such a long period, so I’m really positive about him.”
“Disappointed with the way we lost it and the way we conceded the goal but we know that we should not be doing that in that area of the pitch.”
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 23, 2021
Arteta was impressed by Southampton’s pressing in their FA Cup meeting and expects a similar challenge in their next meeting.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team have the third-lowest opposition passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA) value in the Premier League this season at 10.9, indicating that only Liverpool (10.1) and Leeds United (8.9) press higher than them.
Furthermore, the average distance from their own goal that Saints’ open play sequences start is 42.9 metres, with only Liverpool (44.4m) and Manchester City (45.4m) commencing sequences further up the pitch.
Arsenal, meanwhile, rank joint-11th in PPDA (13.8) and joint-sixth in average start distance (41.8m).
“We know they are one of the most effective teams in that [pressing] like we are,” said Arteta.
“It was an intense game and we were expecting that for sure, and we are expecting that on Tuesday because they don’t really change.
“They are a really great team, really good manager, they know exactly what they’re doing and they’ve been doing it for years now, and they are good at it so we expect a similar game on Tuesday.”