Why Gabriel Martinelli is a level above Mason Greenwood
By James Whiffing
The 2019/20 season has been one to forget for both Arsenal and Manchester United (particularly for the former), although there are a few major positives for both sides, including the development of youth players, particularly the emergence of both Gabriel Martinelli and Mason Greenwood.
The two versatile teenagers have been a sensation for their respective clubs this season, with both massively exceeding expectations. However, with both fanbases relentlessly arguing who is the better player, I thought I’d utilise the immense field of sports data analytics to assess them and come to a conclusion.
Gabirel Martinelli Europa League 19/20
The Gunners utilised their extensive scouting network in Latin America to secure Martinelli for £6 million in the summer of 2019. The 18-year-old came from regional side Ituano, who are technically in the Brazilian third division.
Since joining in July, the teenager has hit the ground running, scoring 10 goals and registering 4 assists in just 1,463 minutes across all competitions. This means that the Brazilian averages a goal or assist every 105 minutes, whilst also managing an impressive 0.33 xG/90 in the League and 0.52 xG/90 in the Europa League. Martinelli has a total xG of 2.3 in the Prem and has scored 3 goals, indicating he is an efficient finisher, making the most of the goal-scoring opportunities created for him. As mentioned above, the Brazilian has scored 10 goals and has done so from just 16 shots on target. This suggests that the 18-year-old knows when to shoot (evident in his 0.19 xG/shot in the league) and is generally quite prolific.
Martinelli also boasts a staggering 0.4 xA/90 in Europe, demonstrating his ability to create high quality chances consistently. His 72.8% pass accuracy is below average, but it shows that the Brazilian is always looking for the killer pass and isn’t afraid to lose the ball. High risk, high reward football. He also has three assists in the Europa League, averaging one every 141 minutes in the competition. Creativity in abundance.
Gabriel Martinelli Premier League 19/20
Martinelli is often deployed on the left flank, so his dribbling skills need to be sharp and effective. The youngster has managed a 51% dribble success rate in all competitions with 22 dribbles completed. Although this percentage seems low, it shows that Martinelli is fearless and direct when in possession of the ball; he isn’t afraid of being tackled. Having a player like this can give the sometimes lacklustre Arsenal team a much needed bright spark of energy and directness when in the final third. Martinelli completes 2.2 dribbles per 90 in the Europa League, with the teenager drawing 1.3 fouls per 90 in the same competition; he is a constant thorn in the side of the opposition.
Finally, the 18-year-old averages 4.66 pressure regains per 90 in the Premier League and 4.15 per 90 in the Europa League. This highlights Martinelli’s incredible work rate; he is always pressing the opposition relentlessly and does not give up until the ball is won back. This is a trait very similar to that of former Gunner Alexis Sanchez, something our senior writer Rob wrote about yesterday.
Mason Greenwood Europa League 19/20
After coming through the academy, Greenwood made his full debut for Manchester United in 2019 against Astana in the Europa League. This saw the Englishman become the Red Devil’s youngest ever goal scorer in a European competition at the age of 17 years and 353 days.
Ever since his first start, he’s not looked back, scoring 12 goals and assisting 4 in just 1,745 minutes of football, averaging a goal or assist every 103 minutes. Greenwood has an xG/90 of 0.29 in the League and 0.32 in the Europa League. The teenager also has a total xG of 2.1 domestically and has scored 5 goals. This stat shows that Greenwood is a lethal finisher and is extremely reliable in front of goal; perhaps more clinical than Martinelli, but less able to get into high quality goal scoring positions.
However, Greenwood doesn’t quite match the creative assets of Martinelli. In the Europa League, Greenwood has managed a mere 0.15 xA/90. Whilst he causes far fewer turnovers, evident in his impressive 89% pass accuracy, the 18-year-old has just one assist in 460 minutes of Europa League football, which highlights his inability to play creative passes and lack of a killer instinct in the final third when it’s not him finishing off a move. However, considering he is more of an out and out striker, it is indeed more his role to finish chances rather than create them.
Mason Greenwood Premier League 19/20
However, similarly to Martinelli, Greenwood is often deployed out wide. The England under-21 international has a 59% dribble success rate in all competitions with 22 completed dribbles. The difference between Martinelli and Greenwood here, however, is the dribbles per 90. In the Europa League, Greenwood completes a below average 0.9, suggesting that he doesn’t have the same fearlessness as Martinelli in terms of taking opponents on and beating them; he prefers to pass it short to a teammate instead of trying to create an opportunity for himself or a teammate.
Lastly, a unique skill Greenwood possesses is the ability to use both feet. The Red Devils’ man has scored 8 goals with his left foot and 4 with his right. This is an extremely useful skill to have since defenders cannot force him on to his ‘weak foot’ since he doesn’t have one; he can strike the ball just as well on his right as he can on his left. This also grants Greenwood the choice of either cutting in or going on the outside of a defender when he is played on the wing.
Before getting to the final verdict, there’s no denying that Gabriel Martinelli and Mason Greenwood are both exceptional players with potential to become some of the best players in Europe. However, after a statistical breakdown of both, I would have to say that Gabriel Martinelli is simply on a level above. The Brazilian boasts impressive shooting stats which highlight how clinical he can be despite mainly playing on the left wing; 10 goals from 16 shots on target is quite the feat for an 18-year-old. The Gunners’ man also has a fearlessness on the ball in terms of his passing and dribbling and is always looking to create a chance or thread an incisive pass to one of his teammates. His relentless pressing also makes him a defender’s nightmare, and means he’ll be able to slot perfectly into a cohesive pressing system in the future.
Greenwood is a better striker than Martinelli. The Englishman is an elite finisher; his finishing is undoubtedly better than that of Martinelli. However, aside from pure finishing, there isn’t much Greenwood exceeds Martinelli on; the Brazilian is better at pressing, more creative, a better dribbler and more versatile. He is a generational talent.