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Gabriel Martinelli: Arsenal's 'talent of the century' turning into a superstar

10:00 GMT+3 14/10/2022
Gabriel Martinelli Arsenal HIC 16:9
Jurgen Klopp might have been right about the Brazilian winger, who is tearing full-backs to shreds this season.

Bukayo Saka’s first goal in the 3-2 win against Liverpool last weekend was the perfect example of the new and improved Gabriel Martinelli.

When Arsenal’s young winger picked the ball up from Gabriel Jesus, he had half of the pitch in front of him to run into. He also knew there were just seconds left of first-half stoppage time.

Not so long ago, this exact situation would have led to one thing. Martinelli would have put his head down and just charged towards goal with little thought of what was going on around him.

That’s not a criticism, that’s just where he was in his game, having only been plucked from the Brazilian lower leagues as an untried teenager in 2019.

But we are now seeing a different Martinelli. A player who has developed under Mikel Arteta. A player who knows exactly what to do, and when to do it.

So, when he received the ball from Jesus and set off towards the Liverpool goal on Sunday, he already had a picture in his mind of how things were going to play out.

It wasn’t about scoring himself; it was about getting into the perfect position to set up a team-mate. 

And Martinelli did exactly that, drawing the Liverpool defenders across before rolling the ball across the six-yard box to give Saka a tap-in at the back post.

It was top quality wing play from a player who has gone up another level during the first couple of months of 2022-23.

“I think it’s my best season here,” Martinelli said after Sunday’s win against Liverpool. “I’m so happy for this moment.”

And so he should be.

Martinelli has already scored four times in nine Premier League appearances this season – just two fewer than he managed in the entire 2021-22 campaign.

The 21-year-old also has two assists, including the one he produced to set up Saka so beautifully on Sunday.

“He’s a great player,” Mikel Arteta said when asked about Martinelli’s performance against Jurgen Klopp’s side.

“I think he had an outstanding performance against a top team. He made a difference in the game and that’s the next level, to step up in these games and actually make things happen.”

Martinelli has always been a player who can excite when he’s on the pitch – that’s why he was such an instant hit amongst Arsenal fans following his move from Ituano three years ago.

However, at times, his inexperience would let him down, especially with his end product in the final third.

Arteta has worked hard on improving that and this season we are now seeing a far more clinical version of Martinelli.

The Brazilian is averaging a goal every 195.8 minutes so far, which is a marked improvement upon his previous campaign (one every 311 minutes).

His shot conversion rate is 15.4 percent – up from 11.5 percent from 2021-22. He is also averaging more shots per game (3 compared to 2.5), more shots on target (1.3 compared to 0.8), creating more chances (2.3 compared to 1.6) and completing more dribbles (2.3 compared to 2.2).

Martinelli has fashioned 19 chances from open play this term – only Mohamed Salah (26) and Kevin De Bruyne (20) have created more.

Not only is he now a more dynamic player, but he is also a more productive player.

And – alongside Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka – he is part of a front three that is as dangerous as any in the English top flight, with the trio already amassing 22 direct goal involvements between them.

“It’s amazing to play alongside them,” Martinelli said. “We have a lot of time to improve. I think we have great quality, and I think we can do more.”

The key thing for Arsenal now is to get Martinelli’s long-term future secured.

Improved performances will of course see clubs from across Europe casting their eyes towards Arsenal’s prodigious young talent.

He is now into the final two years of his contract, which expires in the summer of 2024, although the Gunners do have the option of extending that deal by a further two years.

Arsenal are aware, however, that Martinelli needs to be rewarded with improved terms that match his stature in the team and talks over a new contract are progressing.

The player is in no doubt that he "wants to stay" and Arsenal fans will be hoping that negotiations are swift and relatively pain free because Martinelli has proven already this season that he is as special as many people predicted he would be.

The boy that Jurgen Klopp once described as the "talent of the century" is all grown up.