Don't sleep on Gabriel Martinelli: He'll be back and better than before
By Max (@AFCMax9 on twitter)
Gabriel Martinelli- the future of the Arsenal, a star making all the headlines… until injury struck and set him out for a large slice of the season. Is it possible that now, given his recent setback, he may be being written-off and overlooked by the media, rivals- and even Arsenal fans ourselves? Allow me first to set the scene.
On the second of July 2019, Gabriel Teodoro Martinelli Silva joined Arsenal Football Club for a fee reported to be around six million pounds. Coming from Ituano FC, a team ranked in the third league of Brazilian football, Martinelli was an unknown quantity- a player that I, and almost all Arsenal fans, were blissfully unaware of prior to the rumours came flooding in. At the cheap price he came at, and with the potential of a rebuild on the cards, Martinelli was welcomed in by the fans- who at first expected him to be integrated with the under-21 squad.
Upon his arrival, the player claimed: “It is a dream since I was a child and also my family’s dream for me to be playing in Europe and playing for a big team like Arsenal. I am going to take this opportunity.”
To say he just took this opportunity would be an insult to just how well he really did. Martinelli was thrown straight into the first team during pre-season, scoring in his first appearance against Colorado Rapids- and demonstrating his blistering pace throughout the US tour.
Come the start of the Premier League season, Martinelli found himself on the Arsenal bench- making a cameo performance on the opening day at St. James' Park. He followed this up with several more cameo appearances in the League, before Unai Emery decided to start the Brazilian against Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup. Martinelli took his chance as it came, scoring a brace on what was only his first competitive start for the club, leading Arsenal to a 5-0 win against the East Midlands side. Speaking after the game, our manager commented that Gabriel was “hungry to have that opportunity to help”- adding further evidence to prove his excellent mentality and lust to succeed.
He didn’t stop there. Martinelli’s impressive start at his new club continued when he scored another brace in his second appearance- getting an assist as well. The 18-year-old continued his fine form throughout the first half of the season, claiming 14 goal involvements in just 1,463 minutes- an incredible record for any player, let alone one of his age and experience.
However, in the run-up to the restart of the Premier League after the Covid-19 pandemic ground football to a halt, it came to light that Martinelli had picked up an injury. At first, we didn’t know the magnitude of the damage, which he picked up in training, but quickly it came to light that it was serious. He had to endure surgery on his knee- and a long recovery period is set to keep him out until 2021. Since then, other young talents across the Premier League, (Mason Greenwood, Phil Foden and our very own Bukayo Saka spring to mind) have continued to progress and show their talent- leading some fans to forget how good Martinelli can be.
As a young player, a serious injury as such can be career-limiting. Coming back, your average professional would follow a strict recovery routine assigned by their respective medical team and slowly be integrated back into the squad- but, fortunately for Arsenal fans, Gabriel Martinelli is not your average player. Every single player or football expert to have spoken out about Martinelli has mentioned one key attribute they see from him- his immense work rate. In training, he has been said to work at full intensity- giving his very all to further himself as a player and push his body to its physical limits. As Kieran Tierney phrased it, "the first session, I was against (Gabriel) Martinelli. Young boy, I knew he was good. I was like 'Woah, this is the standard man. He is unbelievable. The effort and attitude was unreal'”.
With a young player, there is often one or two things that fans can identify as a weakness that needs to be worked on. With Martinelli, this is tough; across the board he has displayed his ability- blistering pace, clinical finishing, and excellent pressing. If during his recovery he can continue to bulk and gain strength to battle in our physical league, the teenage sensation will be in an excellent place to continue his progression as a player- and might prove a key part in our cup competitions throughout 2021. Under the guidance of Mikel Arteta and the team around our manager, I have no doubt he’ll be fine-tuned into the player we know he can become.
At just 19 years of age, Martinelli still has surplus of ten years ahead of him at Arsenal- and is still a number of years off the average player’s “prime”. He is still young and therefore cannot be expected to set the world alight straight away on a consistent basis- his return to the pitch will require support and love from all of the fans. With his long-term future at Arsenal secured, everyone involved with the player is in a perfect position to work hard on his recovery, and get him enjoying minutes at Arsenal once again.
His combination of work rate, aspiration and talent is what gives me full belief that Martinelli will come back stronger than ever. Having him back will add a new dynamic to our squad depth- an alternative to our current attacking options. The sooner we can get him back and playing, the better. His- without trying to get too far ahead of myself- Ronaldo-esque mentality will prove key in both his recovery to full fitness and in his claim to start for Mikel Arteta’s side. A fully fit Martinelli will not only offer a plan B from the bench: it will also push any player starting ahead of him to perform to their very best- or they will run the risk of losing their spot in the team.
I genuinely cannot wait for Gabriel Martinelli to be back. He’s going to leave a lot of people eating their words. Put your faith in him to thrust himself back to the very top.