Why Gabriel Martinelli is a generational talent
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
2nd July 2019. A baby-faced Brazilian teenager walked into London Colney to sign a long-term contract with Arsenal football club, making him the club’s first summer signing. He had just recently turned 18, and was thus permitted a work permit to make the life changing move across the globe to England. Nobody outside the streets of the Itu district in Sao Paulo had heard of him, and whilst wild and enthusiastic anticipation around the switch built, expectations about the realistic impact he would make in the upcoming season were low.
Fast forward 9 months and Gabriel Martinelli is a global phenomenon. After scoring the 10th goal of his debut season at Stamford Bridge in January with a wonderful solo effort which demonstrated his pace, technical ability, composure and tenacity, the boy from Sao Paulo sparked mass hysteria in the worldwide Sports Media. Headlines in publications across the planet spoke of his excellence, and of how a star had been born that night in West London.
However, Arsenal fans had been well aware of his potential long before then. This goal and performance marked the announcement of Gabriel Martinelli on a global stage, but within the club it had been on show for several months, and for those that follow regional Brazilian football, they’ve known about this star in the making for a lot, lot longer. Whilst the impact he has made in English football already may be deemed remarkable given his age, experience and price tag, to many that are close to him this has come as no surprise.
Born and raised from humble beginnings, Martinelli has always had the determination and drive to become a professional footballer. His family worked tirelessly to provide the platform for him to push for this goal, and the boy himself put everything into earning a move to a European side. Sources close to the individual have described his attitude as ‘exemplary’ and went as far as declaring they had absolutely no doubt about his ability to reach the top of the game.
After being deemed not capable enough by boyhood club Corinthians at the age of 13, and being rejected by Manchester United and Barcelona after trials, many would have given up. But not Martinelli. The then 14-year-old joined regional side Ituano in 2015, and went onto make his debut 2 years later at the tender age of 16. Excelling at this level for two seasons enabled him to catch the eye of several European clubs, including Arsenal, who snatched at the opportunity to sign the youngster.
‘I’m going to relish this opportunity,’ he told Arsenal Media in an interview upon arriving at the club.
He certainly has done. The forward has contributed to 15 goals this season in 1,493 minutes of football, a contribution every 99.5 minutes. He has managed a staggering 0.52 xG/90 and 0.4 xA/90 in Europe, whilst also putting up impressive numbers in his limited Premier League outings. His ability to get into high quality goal-scoring positions and create high quality goal scoring chances on a consistent basis is unparalleled by almost any youngster in the English game.
Martinelli is an exceptional dribbler of the ball, utilising his low centre of gravity and close control to get away from defenders with ease. His ability to pick a pass is reminiscent of Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal, as is his work rate, which is possibly his most unique attribute. He works tirelessly throughout every minute of every game he plays in, very often outsprinting and covering more ground than any other player on the pitch- this aspect of his game making him a very effective presser, a useful asset for any team, but something that could see his game elevated if used in a cohesive pressing system.
This hard work, tenacity and output numbers are what sets him apart from everyone else his age. They are so far exceeding the average coveted prospect, that he is what many people would describe a generational talent. Gabriel Martinelli will be a superstar for years to come. You may say this is too much pressure to heap on an 18-year-old. But Gabriel Martinelli deals with pressure, and then invites more of it to deal with, exceeding all expectations.