Mikel Arteta explains decision to axe Martinelli for Arsenal's clash with Villa

Mikel Arteta says he wanted to bring more ‘energy’ to his frontline by benching Gabriel Martinelli in favour of Leandro Trossard for Saturday lunchtime’s clash between Arsenal and Aston Villa.

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The Gunners lost their place at the summit of the Premier League table on Wednesday night following a 3-1 defeat at home to Manchester City.

However, they can reclaim top spot – albeit briefly – with a win at Villa Park in the day’s early kick-off.

Arteta has elected to make two changes to the side that were beaten by City, with Martinelli replaced by January recruit Trossard and Ben White coming in for Takehiro Tomiyasu.

Martinelli has failed to score or assist in his last six Premier League appearances since the turn of the year, but Arteta has suggested his team selection is based more on Trossard’s lively cameos than the Brazilian youngster’s loss of form.

Asked about the decision to bench Martinelli, Arteta told BT Sport: ‘Well probably it’s to give Leandro as well the chance he deserves in the starting XI.

‘He’s been impacting the team every time he’s been on the field and we need some changes and some energy as well in the front line.’

He added: ‘He deserves it. And obviously we need some energy and freshness in the frontline with that short turnaround. He has plenty of expierence in this league and I’m sure he can do it.’

Trossard arrived from Brighton in January and has been a bright spark in his four cameo appearances off the bench in the Premier League so far.

In his debut, he played a role in the late winner over Manchester United at the end of January while he netted Arsenal’s goal in last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Brentford – which was overshadowed by a controversial VAR call which saw Lee Mason step down from his position.

Elsewhere in the team, Tomiyasu pays the price for his error that gifted Kevin De Bruyne a goal on Wednesday night and Jorginho continues in midfield with Thomas Partey still not fit.

Arsenal are taking on a familiar foe in the form of ex-manager Unai Emery – who actually beat the Gunners in the Europa League when in charge of Villarreal – and Arteta is expecting a tough match.

He continued: ‘A top manager, a manager that has a lot of solutions, huge experience, has been really successful and he’s going to make it really hard for us that’s for sure.’

On the need to bounce back and reclaim top spot before City play later in the day, Arteta added: ‘You need this type of characters with this mentality in difficult moments to stand up, make it count and make the difference to win the game.’

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