Gabriel Martinelli made his long-awaited return to action for Arsenal in the Papa John’s Trophy tonight (Tuesday).
The Brazilian sensation, 19, burst onto the scene for the Gunners last season as he became the first teenager since Nicolas Anelka to more than 10 goals for the club in a single season.
He committed his long-term future to the club with a new deal in July but was ruled out for the remainder of the year shortly afterwards having undergone knee surgery.
With Mikel Arteta’s side struggling for goals, Martinelli has recovered ahead of schedule and been back in full training in recent weeks.
And he finally got back in competitive action for Arsenal Under-21s as Steve Bould’s side took on AFC Wimbledon in the Papa John’s Trophy.
Martinelli started the game before being substituted at half-time in what appeared a planned move as he builds up to match fitness.
His role gave a hint as to where he could feature in the Arsenal first-team as he returns to try and give some added impetus to Arteta’s misfiring side.
The Gunners lined up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, slightly different to the system used by Arteta’s side.
But, tellingly, Martinelli was deployed as one of the two central strikers alongside Swedish youngster Nikolaj Moller.
Alexandre Lacazette has recently dropped deeper into a No.10-style role as one of two central players in Mikel Arteta’s system, which could offer Martinelli a passage into the side.
Martinelli showed different sides to his game, offering some dangerous runs in behind but also dropping deeper to get onto the ball to try and breakdown the Wimbledon defence.
He regularly dropped even deeper and wide onto the right flank in a flexible role in which he was seemingly given plenty of freedom.
The Brazilian largely featured on the left-wing last season, but Mikel Arteta indicated previously he sees him as a central striker.
“[Aubameyang and Martinelli] are centre forwards but with the squad balance that we have at the moment, to play on those positions on the left we don’t have five players,” Arteta said after the 1-0 win over West Ham United last season.
Martinelli’s return may not necessarily be representative of Arteta’s plans, particularly given a slightly different system used by the Under-21s behind the strikers.
But it is fair to expect the Brazilian would ideally have been deployed in a role similar to that expected of him on his first-team return.
With that in mind, it appears he could be given freedom to roam around from a central role in order to make things happen in a side devoid of creativity.