Martin Keown thinks Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta should drop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Gabriel Martinelli or risk “losing the respect of the group”.
The Gunners are struggling to become consistent this season as they sit tenth in the Premier League table, having won 12 and lost 12 this term.
Aubameyang’s record of 14 goals in 32 appearances in all competitions this season looks decent on the surface but his performances have been poor in the main.
The Gabon international was one of the Arsenal players criticised in their 3-0 loss at home to Liverpool and Keown thinks it is now time to drop their captain.
“Arteta has a big decision to make on his captain,” Keown told the Daily Mail.
“He set an example by dropping Aubameyang for the north London derby recently. Aubameyang was supposed to start against Spurs but turned up late and was pulled. Should Arteta not be dropping him for performing as poorly as he did against Liverpool? If he sticks with him, he risks losing the respect of the group.
“It’s time to bring in 19-year-old Gabriel Martinelli. He is too good to be sitting on the bench.”
Aubameyang – whose form has slipped away since signing a new long-term deal last summer – was substituted against Liverpool with Martinelli coming on in his place.
The Brazilian has only made 12 appearances this season due to his return from a long-term injury but Keown is now ready to see Martinelli start more matches.
Keown added: “His team-mates see him in training and know what he can do. They will be baffled by his continued absence. I know I am.
“Use him on the left. Use Bukayo Saka on the right. Start Emile Smith Rowe. Then you’ll have a team who can pose problems for the opposition. There were too many passengers against Liverpool.”
Arsenal have their first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Slavia Prague on Thursday and Keown reckons Arteta has some “big decisions” to make ahead of that game.
“There is no time for Arsenal’s players to feel sorry for themselves. They need to bounce back against a Prague side who have knocked Leicester and Rangers out of the Europa League. Arteta has big decisions to make – ones he needs to get right.”