Martin Keown claims the reason Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta leaves out Gabriel Martinelli is because he “doesn’t like” the Brazilian.
Despite Arsenal struggling this season, Martinelli – who returned from a long-term injury in December – has failed to start regularly under Arteta.
The 19-year-old attacker has made seven starts in all competitions with many Arsenal fans now calling to see him in the starting XI more often.
Martinelli was given 27 minutes to have an impact in the Gunners’ 2-1 loss to Villarreal in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final, with Arteta starting the match without a recognised striker on the pitch.
And Keown thinks the only reason that Martinelli doesn’t play more is because Arteta “doesn’t like” the Arsenal youngster.
“I’ve been concerned as to why that player is not playing,” Keown told BT Sport.
When asked why he thought Martinelli wasn’t being selected, Keown replied: “Because the manager doesn’t like him. It’s as simple as that.
“I’m not there everyday, I’m not on the training ground. I thought it was very interesting Odegaard had gone internationally and said ‘in training this is the best young player I’ve ever seen’. And he’s from Real Madrid.
“So now it’s time to let him fly. Let’s look at the positives. Let’s support him. When he came into the team I thought he did a great job. Not only was he making runs down the middle but he was coming back. He was like a Duracell battery.
“Keep him in the team. Play him. You’ve seen what you’ve done with Smith Rowe and Saka. Support the young players, that’s where the energy is coming.”
Freddie Ljungberg, who has managed the Brazilian at Arsenal, thinks he could be a real asset to Arsenal as he’s “really awkward to play against”.
On Martinelli’s performance, Ljungberg added: “I thought he was amazing when he came on. The energy he gives, he runs everywhere, he is really awkward to play against. He trains really, really well.”
Arsenal travel to face Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon as they look to improve on their current tenth-placed standing in the Premier League.