On Monday, Gabriel Martinelli kicked off an online debate when he started and scored against West Ham United.
Gabriel Martinelli came into the team at the expense of Alexandre Lacazette, who dropped to the bench on the night. The 18-year-old worked incredibly hard throughout the match and ended up scoring the equaliser sparking Arsenal’s comeback.
As a result of Arsenal’s first league win in two months, plenty of supporters and journalists started up the ‘Martinelli or Lacazette’ debate.
Should the teenager get a run in the first-choice team? Is he a better option for Freddie Ljungberg than the Frenchman despite his relative age and inexperience?
Personally, I think the whole debate is nonsense. Martinelli didn’t come into the team because he’s a better player than Lacazette, and he shouldn’t drop out of it because he’s a worse one. He’s in the team because he’s a winger.
Though Martinelli showed he’s more than capable of playing centrally earlier this season, he still considers left-wing to be his best position. He’s certainly more suited to it than Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who are centre-forwards through and through.
The attack is more balanced with one striker and two wide players, and we’ve seen that time and time again. However hard Unai Emery or Freddie Ljungberg try to squash the club’s star strikers into one team, it rarely results in exciting performances or results.
People struggle to admit it, given Lacazette and Aubameyang are both so talented and so popular with the fans, but they’re competing with each other for a spot in Arsenal’s best team.
Why does that have to be a problem?
Short answer: It doesn’t. There are plenty of games in a season to rotate between the two strikers. Whichever one isn’t in the starting lineup can make an impact off the bench.
Look at Manchester City with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus. Liverpool with Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi. Chelsea with Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi.
Arsenal are pretty much the only top club where dropping one talented striker in favour of a more balanced team seems to be an outrageous way to approach the starting lineup.
That’s not to say Martinelli shouldn’t face any competition for places. Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson can compete with him the same way Lacazette should with Aubameyang.
Forcing a comparison between Martinelli and Lacazette doesn’t help anyone though. They’re simply playing different roles in the team right now.