Seven of Arsenal’s first nine games of this Premier League season featured a goal contribution from Granit Xhaka or Garbiel Martinelli. During a run in which Arsenal have dropped points in three of their last five Premier League matches, the pair have provided just one goal contribution.
Mikel Arteta’s team are enduring their first frustrating period of the campaign, and the lack of attacking threat from their left flank has been noted. In Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Brentford, Martinelli was Arsenal’s first player substituted, replaced by goalscorer Leandro Trossard. That goal was created by a combination involving Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka down the right.
Martinelli’s slight dip can be partly explained by Gabriel Jesus’ absence. While Eddie Nketiah has deputised admirably, he is less comfortable drifting into wide positions and allowing Martinelli to switch into the centre. When Nketiah does show wide, he tends to favour linking with Saka on the right. Martinelli and Jesus played with wonderful synergy in the season’s early months, and Arsenal’s left-winger is missing his compatriot.
In the defeat at Goodison Park, Martinelli was isolated from his team-mates. It is important to stress that a player being isolated is not necessarily a bad thing. One of Arsenal’s key tactical principles, much like Manchester City, is to leave Saka and Martinelli high and wide to stretch opponents and create one-on-one opportunities against full-backs. Rather than overlapping and allowing the winger to move inside, Arsenal’s left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko underpins Martinelli to offer control and protection against the counter-attack.
Against Brentford, Martinelli was encouraged to move inside earlier, as shown by his more narrow average position compared with Everton away. Despite this tweak, things still did not come off for him.