Gabriel Martinelli offers Arsenal immediate remedy to Aubameyang indiscretions and ineffectiveness

The 20-year-old proved the match-winner after his more senior team-mate was disciplined by the club

Karl Matchett
Wednesday 15 December 2021 22:07
Comments

For such an undoubted talent, an exciting attacking prospect and an occasionally excellent performer, it’s perhaps a surprise to learn that Gabriel Martinelli’s best haul of Premier League goals for a single season so far is just three.

That tally came in his first campaign in England, the interrupted 2019/20, while between recovery from a knee injury and some very inconsistent form and tactics from his team the following year, he managed only two.

A perfectly struck finish against West Ham United on Wednesday night brought the Brazilian up to the same low-key number for 21/22, his other coming against Newcastle three weeks ago.

And yet despite the type of season scoring rates only Francis Jeffers and Glenn Helder might be happy with, there’s no question Martinelli is a massive part of Arsenal’s future - or, given the significant question marks over the now-former-captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, perhaps he’s simply a massive part of the present and will remain so for a long time to come.

There are, of course, many similarities between the younger forward and the sidelined 32-year-old.

Operating from the left of the front line, while still being seen as a centre-forward in general potential-future terms, is just one of them. A great turn of pace and a penchant for cutting in to shoot with regularity is another, while his goal against the Hammers was early-Arsenal Aubaesque in technique. But outside of any attacker’s bread-and-butter comes an awful lot of requirements at the top end of the game and it’s here that the 81st-minute ovation Martinelli received was most deserving of.

His off-the-ball work, defensive tracking and determination to keep the team’s shape was nothing short of exemplary, and nothing at all like the levels of performance habitually put in by Aubameyang this season.

One incident on 72 minutes summed up his performance: with his goal the difference and West Ham down a man, Martinelli not only tracked the run of Michail Antonio from right-back to the corner flag, but attempted the tackle twice and ultimately blocked the ball reaching the penalty area. He was roundly cheered by the home support, then and when he left the pitch after suffering from cramp.

That slightly early exit did point to one of the lingering issues, that of being a regular 90-minute performer. He has only twice played the full 90 in the league this term, while Wednesday’s win was also the first time he had managed four successive league starts since joining the club.

Recovery time, endurance levels and even half-to-half consistency are naturally traits youngsters pick up as they go, as they develop physically, as they learn what elite performance is all about. A few seniors at the club have still to learn that particular lesson, it might be argued.

Prior to the start of December he had played only 187 minutes in the top flight, but it’s unlikely Martinelli can be kept on the fringes of the side much longer. Right now, even ignoring the No9 role, Mikel Arteta has four youthful, in-form and confident attacking options in support of a striker, with Bukayo Saka excellent once more against the Hammers, Martin Odegaard pulling the strings in spells and Emile Smith Rowe coming off the bench to finally net the killer second of the game.

That area of the team is shaping up extremely nicely, as long as your name isn’t Nicolas Pepe.

Martinelli will now doubtless be keen to remain in the team, with Leeds, Sunderland and Norwich the Gunners’ next three fixtures - two of three worst defensive records in the Premier League, and a League One 1 side in the Carabao Cup.

A paltry three goals remains his record top-flight haul for Arsenal to date and he’s not there yet for this term, but it doesn’t take much of a leap of faith to suggest he’ll be far beyond that soon enough, whether Aubameyang returns to the fold or not.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in