Gabriel Martinelli was set for another start with the Arsenal u23s tonight, as he closes in on a long-awaited first-team comeback, but he was missing when the teams were announced.

Gabriel Martinelli with the Arsenal u21s (Photo by Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
Gabriel Martinelli with the Arsenal u21s (Photo by Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

Now in the final stages of his recovery from a knee injury, Gabriel Martinelli recently played 45 minutes for the Arsenal academy against AFC Wimbledon. According to reports, he was set for another start for the u23s against Leicester City on Friday night.

He was, however, missing when the teams were announced hinting at involvement against Everton or a problem with his recovery:

It looks like Leicester City will stream the game, as they’ve committed to streaming all their PL2 fixtures this season. However, Arsenal previously barred Manchester United from streaming a game at Meadow Park, so we’ll have to wait and see.

If there’s no stream, you’ll have to get updates on the game from Arsenal Academy and Leicester City on Twitter.

As for a potential first-team return in the near future, Arteta sounded positive about the prospect.

“Gabriel Martinelli is very close to being available and fit to be part of us as well, which is great news,” Arteta said. “Gabi is pure enthusiasm, energy, belief, charisma, and goals.

“He’s around the training ground and he’s around our training sessions and the energy is different because he goes 100 miles per hour. He’s got this passion and his way of playing and he is a threat.

“He’s a player that we’ve been missing because he brings something special to the team. He’s contagious with his attitude and I think it’s going to be a big boost when we have him.”

Martinelli scored 10 goals and assisted a further four in his first season, a goal contribution every 105 minutes on average. Nobody to play 180+ minutes for Arsenal this season can match that frequency.

Clearly, it would be a boost to have him back. Friday’s u23 match is the final academy game available to Martinelli this year, so after that, his only option will be to reintegrate with the senior side.