Gabriel Martinelli: The Samba Boy
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Gabriel Martinelli of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC at Stamford Bridge on January 21, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Despite a promising start to the campaign Arsenal have been through a bleak run of form in more recent times, further tainted by the irresponsible actions of record signing Nicolas Pepe.

Mikel Arteta will be hoping for a lifeline to get his side back on track and the answer is seemingly right around the corner.

Breakout star of last season Gabriel Martinelli is edging ever closer to a full recovery and subsequently a return to first-team action.

The 19-year-old was sidelined after sustaining a knee injury in June after the club returned to training following the nationwide lockdown enforced in March.

The Brazilian was virtually unknown when previous Gunners boss Unai Emery signed him from Ituano FC in the fourth tier of Brazilian football; nonetheless, his directness and innate goalscoring ability has swiftly transitioned him into a fan favourite at the Emirates.

As fans eagerly await his return, Martinelli will undeniably rejuvenate a poor Gunners attack which has been impotent so fat this season, to say the least.

On the flip side, they will need to be patient if they want to see him replicate his debut season form where he netted 10 times in 26 outings.

  • Just getting started

Arsenal’s starlet has formed a formidable bond down the left flank with fellow youngster Bukayo Saka as well as the fearless Scotsman Kieran Tierney who was also a summer signing in 2019.

The addition of Martinelli in that summer window added to a young core of players that the club have at their disposal, namely Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Folarin Balogun and Emile Smith-Rowe who have all been dubbed ‘the future of the club’.

 

Mikel Arteta has been reluctant to burden ‘Gabi’ with any added pressure but has also commended him for his start to life in North London.

“He competed against one of the best defenders in the league, in (Cesar) Azpilicueta, and he got at him every time he had a chance.

His fighting spirit is incredible and then he is a threat for goal every time” said Arteta following Martinelli’s superb solo goal against Chelsea at the start of this year.

 

  • In good company

Arteta, a former Premier League player himself, has been one of several ex-professionals to sing the praises of the young Brazilian. Jurgen Klopp, Rio Ferdinand and most notably fellow countryman Ronaldinho have all recognised Martinelli’s meteoric rise to the top, the latter of which even likened him to the Brazilian Ronaldo.

 

“We as Brazilians are very excited about him and his future,” said Ronaldinho to John Cross of the Mirror. “It is one thing to have the talent, but another at the age of 18 to have the confidence.

“He reminds me of Ronaldo. In his first season in Europe, he scored 30 goals and people were thinking, ‘who is this 18-year-old Brazilian kid?’

“He wanted the ball, he would run at players, there was no fear no matter what players or team he was playing against – and I see that similar attitude in Martinelli. He just wants to be on the ball and score goals.”

Arsenal needs to nurture Martinelli into a refined product as he still possesses a unique rawness to his game, which if honed in on, could set him up to be The Gunners’ talisman for years to come.

The Gunners as of late are ironically not firing on all cylinders. Star striker Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang is in a rough patch of form and whilst this will inevitably be short-lived Martinelli’s presence will no doubt make them a more threatening outfit going forward.

Martinelli’s recent return to light training and imminent return to first-team action will hand Arteta a massive boost after a poor string of results and get fans off their seats- the 4,000 that are in the stadium that is.

In the wake of the stalemate vs Leeds at Elland Road, Arsenal have now gone eight hours without scoring a goal from open play cementing their goal tally so far this season is the worst since 1986/87 where George Graham was manager.

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