In a matter of moments – or minutes thanks to the absurdly long time it takes for VAR to help referees reach a decision – Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta saw captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang walk off the pitch thanks to a red card.
Whilst the Gunners escaped further punishment in the sense that they managed to hold on for a draw against Crystal Palace, the damage for the foreseeable future was already done. The north London side will be without their top goal-scorer (he has netted an impressive 16 times across all competitions) for the next three games, and it will be a major source of debate as to how Arteta goes about replacing the club’s talisman.
And whilst Aubameyang’s absence from the team will be just for these next couple of weeks, it does raise an intriguing prospect as to what life could be like without the Gabon international in the side if he ends up leaving the club in the summer. Reports in recent weeks have claimed that he has shelved contract talks for now, and that he is keen on playing Champions League football again, whether at the Emirates or elsewhere.
Watch Arsenal Videos With StreamFootball.tv Below
That is exactly why Gabriel Martinelli could help provide a vital glimpse of what a post-Aubameyang future could look like. The Brazilian sensation has been on fire since arriving from Ituano in the summer, finding the back of the net on eight occasions. Having arrived straight from his homeland, the 18-year-old may well have been expected to just ease his way into first-team action, playing mostly U23 games.
But such has been the immediate impact that he has made, Martinelli is considered a vital part of the first-team squad, even starting and completing the full 90 minutes in the three Premier League games he played before picking up a hamstring injury. If Aubameyang does depart the Emirates, he will leave behind a legacy that has seen him indisputably become the king of the Emirates, winning the Golden Boot last season in the top-flight.
Can you get full marks on the Ultimate Arsenal Quiz? Test your knowledge below…
His goals have been crucial in ensuring that Arsenal haven’t fallen further into obscurity, with a stat at the end of last season showing that his 22 goals earned 19 points of the Gunners’ total of 70. That kind of talent is difficult to replace, but Martinelli continues to defy logic with his performances. This is a teenager in his debut campaign in a foreign country, and yet he is still lighting things up with a ratio of almost one goal in two games (he has eight in 19).
He shows an unflinching passion to drive and inspire his team, averaging 1.2 dribbles, 1.4 key passes and even 2.4 shots per game in the Europa League, where he has really made his mark with three strikes and three assists in five appearances.
It’s the kind of mentality that proves he could step-up in Aubameyang’s absence not just in the short-term over these next few games, but also in the long-term if the latter makes his Emirates exit too.