“Gabi’s gonna be a superstar. Not because of the goal, because of the attitude, energy and mind-set.” ~ Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
The Arsenal captain is one of many to praise Gabriel Martinelli, who played himself into the heart of the clubs fans and players after many promising displays for the Gunners. However, who is he and can he become one of the best in the future?
Martinelli started his career at the Corinthians’ futsal team in 2010. After a few years of success in the futsal scene, he moved to Ituano FC, a club located in his hometown of São Paulo. There he earned his first professional contract at the age of just 16. Despite only playing in the Brazilian fourth division, the youngster soon attracted interest from Europe, which lead to four trials at Manchester United. Their verdict: He was not good enough. In the end, Arsenal knocked at his door and signed him for £6 million. Another important factor in Martinelli’s signing was his Italian passport, which he got due to his father’s heritage.
The signing turned out to be a huge success. Despite not playing immediately after signing, the attacker got his first start in the Europa League, where he score twice and assisted one goal against Standard Liége.
Also read: Gabriel Martinelli sparkles under the Emirates lights in Arsenal's 4-0 thrashing of Standard Liége
From this point on the 18-year old was a regular name on the team sheet. In his 21 games, he was involved in a total of 13 goals, despite only playing 1120 minutes. The highlight so far for him? An insane solo during a counter-attack at Stamford Bridge, which Martinelli crowned with a cool finish.
This solo emphasised three of his main strengths - his coolness in front of the goal, his rapid pace, which the teenager combines with great dribbling abilities.
Despite the young age, 'Gabi' looks very experienced in front of the goal, he often finds himself in dangerous positions in the box and when given the chance, the winger scores more often than not. This take is also clearly visible in his statistics. Despite only shooting ten times in both, the EPL and Europa League, he scored a combined six times, which results in a little more than three shots per goal.
While his speed is obvious, when you look at the way he outpaced both, Emerson and Kovacic, ahead of the already mentioned solo goal. His dribbling numbers are also very solid for a teenager, who is in his first season in England. Martinelli may only have 0.6 dribbles a game in the league, but also only gets dispossessed 0.8 times a game. In comparison, his teammate Nicolas Pepe, who is known for his skills, loses the ball more than twice as much.
The Brazilian may not be the funkiest or most skillful winger you have ever seen, but is very efficient in his actions and considering his young age, could still improve a lot in this area.
Another area, in which Arsenal’s number 35 needs to improve is his passing. He only manages 8.2 passes a game, of which 67.9 reach the dedicated player. His creativity also is not something special, with only 0.1 key passes per 90 minutes. However, those things and abilities come with experience and maturity, for which Martinelli has a lot of time.
In conclusion, the young Arsenal turk seems to have everything in order to become key figure for the club. Martinelli has got everything an attacker needs for the EPL - pace, positioning, calmness, and some solid physical attributes, which help him to stand his ground in the hard league. If he improves his creative output and efficiency in passing, the winger could become one of the superstars of football. Another thing, which could contribute to a glorious career, is his efficiency in big games and important situations. This was not only obvious in the London derby, but also in the other two league games, in which he scored, as the youngster delivered the first goal for Arsenal in both occasions.
Considering his playing style and stats, Martinelli is easily comparable to one of the biggest legends for the Gunners - Thierry Henry. Even though he still has to work a lot, in order to reach this level, the Brazilian has the potential to do so and as already stated by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the attitude, the energy and the mind-set.