Pundit names ‘first-class’ duo capable of firing Arsenal into Champions League amid captaincy claim

Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, Arsenal celebrate after Premier League win over West Ham at Emirates Stadium

Arsenal are more than capable of securing a top-four finish this season after pundit Martin Keown highlighted Gabriel Martinelli and one other star capable of firing them back into the Champions League.

The Gunners roared back into the top four for the first time this season with a convincing 2-0 win over West Ham. An outstanding display from stand-in captain Alexandre Lacazette set the tone – you can see our Player Ratings from Emirates Stadium here.

Indeed, the Gunners were good value for the win, though Mikel Arteta was not entirely happy at the performance.

The build-up to the game has been shrouded by the controversey surrounding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The striker has been stripped of the club captaincy and doubts remain whether he will kick a ball for Arsenal again.

Asked about his relationship with the striker, the manager said: “We will talk about that another day. Today I want to focus on the game.”

Nonetheless, Arsenal’s players showed a thoroughly-professional approach to ease past West Ham.

Indeed, it was their young guns who led the way with goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe.

After the match, Keown had nothing but praise for the young duo and reckons Arsenal were galvanised by the Aubameyang situation.

“In view of the backdrop, the manager taking the captaincy away from Aubameyang, the team showed it didn’t affect them at all in their performance,” he told BT Sport.

“The youngsters, again, leading from the front. Martinelli, a player I just love watching. I just believe in what he does. The pace for that goal was outstanding.

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“And then Smith Rowe off the bench again, I think that’s a message. He’s telling Arteta ‘I want to start, I want to play’.

“So, there’s good competition for places. That’s a really professional performance from those Arsenal players. First-class.”

Martinelli in for special praise

Martinelli’s return to form has been a major plus for Arsenal in recent matches and Keown believes there is a huge talent there.

He won seven duels and completed all his dribbled, in addition to his goal.

And his improvement is an indication of Arsenal’s maturity among their young stars.

“We’ve seen under the bonnet with a few of these Arsenal players, Martinelli in particular,” Keown added.

“When he takes that first touch when he goes through on goal, Coufal is just out of the game. He’s really blessed [with speed].

“That pace is just ridiculous. When you see a player that quick – there was a couple of moments when he was coming back, winning the ball well.

“So, you’re stitching in the information and the players take it on board. You can see them developing and blossoming. That’s what you’re seeing now with the young Arsenal players.”

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