Former-Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie has hailed youngster Gabriel Martinelli after the Gunners came back to win 3-2 against Vitoria in the Europa League.
The young forward produced a brilliant header to convert Kieran Tierney’s cross inside the first-half, bringing the scores back level after former-Tottenham player Marcus Edwards had broken the deadlock for Vitoria.
The home side proved to be a real handful for Arsenal’s defence, with the club’s vulnerabilities again exposed as Vitoria leapt in front again through Bruno Duarte just before the interval.
Unai Emery’s side, who have had a rollercoaster season thus far, remain a calamity in defence despite the recent return of several first-team players, with a lack of cohesion and structure within the back-four causing them to be the architects of their own downfall at times.
Former-Gunner heaps praise on youngster after Vitoria display
Indeed, it made for another nervy night in Europe before Arsenal eventually dug themselves out of trouble late on. Nicolas Pepe, who has been somewhat underwhelming since his £72million summer move, would take the game by the scruff of the neck via two perfectly executed free-kicks to give the Premier League outfit an important win.
While the forward rightfully received praise for his performance on the night, digging Arsenal out of danger following a shaky performance, it was Gabriel Martinelli who appeared to catch the eye of former player Robin Van Persie.
The Frenchman was particularly keen on the 18-year-old, heaping plaudits in his direction for the impact and potential he has shown since his £6million switch from Ituano in the summer.
Martinelli has scored five goals in three League Cup and Europa League appearances so far this term, with fans and pundits alike impressed by his natural goalscoring ability, awareness and cutting edge. Indeed, Van Persie’s recent praise speaks volumes about how highly regarded he is at The Emirates.
“He knew where the goal was, and then bang. What I like about him as well is his link-up play,” Van Persie said on BT Sport. “He’s very technical. He looks very good and he is only 18 years old.”
Van Persie hails Martinelli's movement as youngster continues to shine
Martinelli is yet to score in the Premier League this season having made three appearances from the substitutes bench, but it is his all-round play that has appeared most impressive according to Van Persie, with the teenagers movement both in and out of possession already far ahead of what his age would suggest.
“It’s a joy watching him. Five in three, that’s great stuff. He’s young, he’s 18 years old and the moves he makes and dummies he makes, he is always looking for space. I was playing on the wing at that age! With time, he will get even better, he looks very good.”
Martinelli will likely find opportunities few and far between within the Premier League given the wealth of attacking options at Emery’s disposal and the ongoing form of strike partners Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but his performances give an insight into the future he could have at the club.
Should Arsenal continue their Europa League journey, opportunities for further eye-catching performances could arise for Martinelli, helping widen his development.