Premier League • England

Mikel Arteta calls Arsenal star ‘exceptional’ amid new role; Smith Rowe fitness update

Mikel Arteta Arsenal

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has called Gabriel Martinelli ‘exceptional’ as the Brazilian prepares to undertake a new role, while also providing an update on Emile Smith Rowe’s fitness.

In February, claimed Martinelli was training as a centre-forward, instead of operating at left wing. Arsenal want the 20-year-old to play as a number nine following the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Martinelli has been selected in his usual wide position over the last few weeks, with Alexandre Lacazette being put at centre-forward. But Lacazette’s future is uncertain and Martinelli could be used as a striker regularly next season.

Ahead of Arsenal’s match against Leicester on Sunday, Arteta told a press conference (via “Gabi’s playing a different position because Auba played more as a nine in his last few months.

“He certainly has the capacity to score goals and be a threat in the final third. His contribution and all round game has been exceptional.”

Arteta also gave an update on his team’s fitness, and it looks like positive news for playmaker Smith Rowe. “[Takehiro] Tomiyasu, we’re still assessing him because we’re taking some time to protect him,” Arteta said. “And Emile looks like he’s going to be available.”

The Spaniard was then asked about Lacazette, whose contract expires this summer. He replied: “We have discussed that. At the end of the season, when we know where we are, we are going to make a decision together. We agreed the decision is to do it in the summer and that’s when we are going to do it.”

Mikel Arteta talks Kieran Tierney position

On left-back Kieran Tierney, Arteta added: “Kieran has to overlap when it’s the moment to overlap and he has to be unpredictable.”

Attention then turned to the Ukraine crisis, and what Arsenal are doing to aid refugees. The Gunners have set up an Arsenal Ukraine Supporters’ Trust in solidarity with those affected.

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The North London outfit have also donated to the Save the Children’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and urged fans to do the same.

“It’s great the club wants to show solidarity,” Arteta said. “Even if we’re not suffering first hand we show that we care to those people that are suffering.”

Arsenal in Noussair Mazraoui struggle

Meanwhile, Arsenal and Leeds will have to act fast to secure the signing of Ajax’s Noussair Mazraoui following a contract offer from Spanish giants Barcelona.

Both Premier League teams want to capture Mazraoui from Ajax once his contract runs out on June 30.

But a move to England is under threat following a Fabrizio Romano update.

According to the transfer specialist, Barcelona have made an opening contract offer to the Morocco international and his entourage.

Romano confirms Mazraoui’s desire to leave Ajax, and reveals a switch to the Nou Camp is ‘tempting him’.

Barca are ‘pushing’ to complete the deal before any European rivals – such as AC Milan and Dortmund – are able to sign the 24-year-old first.

READ MORE: Liverpool, Arsenal in battle to sign LaLiga sensation who has €80m exit clause – Paper Talk