Premier League • England

Secret Arteta plan emerges with Aubameyang exit to prompt double Arsenal change

Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli Arsenal

Mikel Arteta may already have his long-term centre-forward on the books after a report suggested two Arsenal changes could be on the horizon.

The Gunners parted ways with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the winter window. The Gabon hitman, 32, had not produced his finest form ever since signing a new contract in September 2020. Nonetheless, he remained arguably the most potent forward on the club’s books.

Arsenal sought to sign Dusan Vlahovic for much of January. Juventus would ultimately scupper those plans, leading to rampant speculation a summer spree is on the cards.

Indeed, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Alexander Isak are the two names most frequently indexed with a summer move to north London. A more immediate, short-term option has reportedly been offered to Arsenal, however, and details on that opportunity can be found at the foot of this article.

Nonetheless, the Mirror now report Arsenal’s long-term centre-forward may in fact be Gabriel Martinelli.

The Brazilian has earned rave reviews for his energetic and clinical displays this season. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is a particularly keen admirer.

Martinelli now the centre of attention?

The 20-year-old has been deployed primarily on the left wing this season. However, with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah both out of contract in the summer, Martinelli may be pushed into a central role.

That would reportedly be to Arteta’s liking anyway, with the Mirror (citing Football London) reporting Martinelli has been used in central areas at times during their recent warm-weather training in Dubai,

The outlet also carry quotes from Martinelli dating back to February of last year. When speaking to ESPN Brazil, Martinelli was effusive in his praise of Aubameyang. However, he also suggested he sees himself as a central striker in the long term.

Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal v West Ham December 2021

“Of course, Auba is an incredible player. Not just a player, an incredible person,” said Martinelli last year.

“It’s a pleasure to have him in the team. He’s a guy who plays in my position. I can look at him every day and try to learn as much as possible. I certainly hope to be playing in the near future.

“And follow in his footsteps, he’s captain of the team, wearing shirt 14, which is a symbol of the club. I hope to have a bright future ahead at Arsenal.”

Renato Sanches open to Premier League move to Arsenal

Renato Sanches is set for another chance in the Premier League with Arsenal

With Aubameyang now departed, the club’s iconic number 14 shirt is now up for grabs. The number was previously worn by Thierry Henry, and the Mirror suggest there is nothing stopping Martinelli from switching from his current number 35.

Indeed, Arsenal have shown a willingness to let their younger stars take iconic numbers in recent years. Emile Smith Rowe took the number 10 shirt in the summer which was previously worn by Dennis Bergkamp.

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EXCLUSIVE: Arsenal offered proven striker as stop-gap measure

Meanwhile, Arsenal have been offered the chance to sign free agent Ze Luis, a one-time striker target of Tottenham Hotspur, TEAMtalk sources understand.

The Cape Verde veteran, 31, left Russian outfit Lokomotiv Moscow during the January transfer window. Lokomotiv severed the contract with Ze Luis by mutual consent of both parties, meaning he is now a free agent.

The former Porto frontman almost joined Spurs in 2020, but the deal fell through. Tottenham were set to sign the international striker on loan from Porto until the end of the season, but only if he was granted a work permit.

A deal never materialised, but the player is believed to have a long-held ambition to play in the Premier League.

According to our sources, he has been in talks with a number of clubs in Turkey, including Giresunspor. However, Arsenal have also been offered his services.

The exit of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Barcelona has left them light up top. Though, it remains to be seen whether Arsenal will pursue any interest in the player and push ahead with talks.

Ze Luis has scored 102 goals in 292 career appearances to date.

READ MORE: Arsenal should be doing all in their power to secure ‘perfect fit’, thinks Paul Merson