Feature

#CHEARS: Three things we noticed

GLORIOUS GABI

Gabriel Martinelli - what a player. It's hard to believe he's only 18. The way he raced away from the Chelsea defence to nonchalantly roll the ball past Kepa had the hallmark of a striker who's been scoring at this level for a decade, not just a few months. As it is, Gabi now has 10 goals in a stunning breakthrough campaign - becoming the first teenager since Nicolas Anelka in 1998/99 to reach double figures for us in a single season. But Gabi is about so much more than goals. He wants to be involved all the time, whether it's sprinting forward to launch an attack or racing back to do his defensive work. Gabi contested 22 duels, 10 aerial duels, and did as much as anyone to make up for that extra man. Afterwards, Mikel Arteta praised his courage and his stamina. "To play in this stadium the way he's done and to play against Azpilicueta... you need courage. I wanted to take him off but the next minute he was sprinting 60 yards again," said our head coach. Yes, Gabi is some talent.

 

EL CAPITAN

"I wasn't expecting Hector to score with his left foot," said Mikel Arteta in a quote dripping with understatement. Hector probably wasn't expecting it either but he truly deserved a happy ending to his latest comeback match. No one in the squad has needed more patience in the past year and Hector has handled it gracefully. His return at Stamford Bridge was capped by the captaincy - leading the team out in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. And our skipper epitomised "the spirit, the fight, the character and the leadership" that our head coach hailed after the game. It looked like Hector would chip in a cross when he received Lucas Torreira's pass on the corner of the box. But he drifted inside, saw the space open up and curled a precision finish into the corner. His first goal for 737 days, and what a moment to get it.


KEEPING FAITH

It's a little over three weeks since we ran out of steam against Chelsea at the Emirates, after failing to get to grips with a tactical switch from Frank Lampard that brought Jorginho on and swung the balance of power Chelsea's way. It was a different story this time. Mikel Arteta's obvious move after David Luiz's red card was to replace a forward player with Rob Holding, but he changed his mind at the end of the first half as we got to grips with a difficult situation and started to cause problems for the hosts. Xhaka slotted into the back four, Ozil and then Guendouzi put in midfield shifts alongside the indefatigable Torreira, and we always looked a threat on the break with the trickery, pace and tenacity of Martinelli, Pepe and Lacazette. So why didn't Mikel opt for the obvious? "I changed my mind, I didn't want to send that message to the team. I wanted to give them a chance and see how they could respond to that. It was a great response." So it was. Our players did their coaches - and the fans - proud.

 

 

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