The Brazilian youngster has a chance to play his way back into the fold for Arsenal after months spent watching on from the side-lines as other players shine in his place
However, there is one talent missing in the form of Gabriel Martinelli – the 20-year-old Brazilian who announced himself to the Emirates faithful in such spectacular fashion during his debut campaign.
It would be disingenuous to suggest Martinelli’s absence has blemished Arsenal’s recent run of good form. Ultimately, fans understand the team comes first.
But his absence has remained a talking point in the wake of underwhelming performances from other wide-players.
Martinelli made history early on in his Gunners career as he became the first teenager since Nicolas Anelka to notch ten goals across all competitions in a single season.
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Arsenal fans were quickly enthralled by this exciting young forward who plays the game at break-neck speed, harrying every loose ball as if he’d sooner die than let a single passage of play go to waste.
To many, it felt like Martinelli had emerged out of nowhere – far from it, the youngster’s story is not quite in the same vein as South American talents that have gone before him.
Alexis Sanchez may have come from very little and played cage football on the mean streets of Tocopilla, Chile – Martinelli, however, had two agents by the age of 14 and a specialist nutritionist hired by his father.
In the quest to become a superstar, Martinelli’s family went to extreme lengths to set him on the right path.
Having always harboured aspirations of plying his trade in Europe, Martinelli’s dream nearly came true two years before he donned the red of Arsenal – when he pulled on the red of Manchester United.
Invited to train with the Red Devils on a number of occasions between 2015 and 2017, Martinelli made one appearance for England’s most successful club as a substitute in an under-18 game against Lincoln City.
Yet, there were doubts from United’s end and the forward was shipped back off to Brazil with little more than a picture with Paul Pogba to show for his efforts.
Not one to be deterred, United’s rejection only inspired Martinelli to work harder – his efforts eventually being rewarded in the form of interest from Arsenal.
Rumoured to model his game on Cristiano Ronaldo, Martinelli boasts a similar kind of physique to the one Ronaldo did upon his arrival in Manchester 18 years ago.
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Skinny, scrawny but skilful – Martinelli may have to bulk up to deal with the constant rigours of the Premier League.
In the summer of 2019, Arsenal purchased Martinelli for a reported fee of £6m – hardly an earth shattering deal, there were few Gunners fans who could claim to know much about a teenager purchased from the Brazilian fourth tier.
Any ‘thunder’ his arrival garnered was quickly stolen by the signing of Nicolas Pepe just under a month later for a club-record fee of £72m – few would have guessed back then who Arsenal fans would rather have in the team little over two years later.
Martinelli scored his first Arsenal goals just a month after joining – a brace against Championship outfit Nottingham Forest at home in the Carabao Cup, earning praise from then-Gunners boss Unai Emery.
“”He’s hungry to have that opportunity to help us, he is very humble, he fights. I told him to have some patience for his opportunity to do like he was doing. He did that. He deserved it”, Emery explained.
In just his second start for the club, Martinelli bagged another brace – this time in the Europa League at home to Standard Liege.
European football’s secondary competition provided Martinelli with the perfect platform to strut his stuff for Arsenal without the pressure of the Premier League.
It is perhaps fitting then, that Martinelli’s demise has coincided with Arsenal’s failure to qualify for the competition in question.
That’s not to say there haven’t been big moments from Martinelli in other competitions, two goals against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup is no easy feat – while few could forget his memorable solo effort against Chelsea in the Premier League.
But without games against ‘lesser’ opposition, Martinelli has found it particularly difficult to play his way back into Arteta’s plans following a lengthy knee-injury that curtailed his development.
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What was once Martinelli’s spotlight has since been occupied by the likes of Saka and Smith Rowe while the Brazilian’s knee was in a brace.
A tactical tweak according to Arteta, Martinelli was named in the starting line-up for the welcome of Manchester United weeks later only to be hauled off at half-time.
Premier League appearances have been hard to come by, though goals against Sheffield United and Crystal Palace at the tail-end of last term reminded many what the young man has to offer.
Tonight’s contest against Leeds in the Carabao Cup represents a chance for Martinelli to restart – to come full-circle in the same tournament that kickstarted his Arsenal career the first time around.
The forwards needs no reminding of how urgently his time at Arsenal could do with a spark, an impressive display against Marcelo Bielsa’s side could do just that.