Gabriel Martinelli’s performance for Arsenal at Chelsea on Tuesday evening had Martin Keown purring – but there were no such kind words for Nicolas Pepe, who was criticised by the former Arsenal defender and his fellow pundit Rio Ferdinand.
Martinelli pounced on a rare N’Golo Kante error to drag Arsenal level after the break, as the 10-man Gunners twice fought back to claim a 2-2 draw and earn huge praise from a delighted Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
“He’s a shining light. He’s been outstanding. The composure is brilliant,” Keown told BT Sport.
“He’s happy to do the work. So many players don’t want to run. I know it’s not a night for contrasts but Nicolas Pepe is on the other side not quite working in the same way.
“I think that [Pepe] is a work in progress and can be much better. If we were to compare the distances they’ve compared and high intensity runs…
“Martinelli is willing to get back and help out.”
On the contrast between Martinelli and Pepe, Ferdinand said: “Night and day…. to run that far and to have the composure to finish [for his goal] is brilliant.
“He’s a centre-forward at heart. There’s too many players who sulk after being moved into a different position.
“The appetite and willingness was great. He’s showing the desire.”
Former Premier League star Joe Cole also hailed Martinelli, saying: “This lad is a very, very good player. He’s the future of Arsenal.”
The 18-year-old, having enjoyed two successive Premier League starts for the Gunners, was scoring his second Premier League goal in as many games, and he clearly appears determined to make the most of his chance with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang serving a three-match suspension.
“He is a great kid,” Arteta said about Martinelli.
“He gets in the box. He plays against Cesar Azpilicueta who is one of the best defenders in the league and keeps taking him on. That is not easy.”