Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal’s ‘animal’, knows it’s his season to shine

·4-min read
Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal’s ‘animal’, knows it’s his season to shine

It was around midway through last season that Mikel Arteta praised Gabriel Martinelli for adding gears to his game.

Since then, Martinelli’s development has continued to accelerate and the signs over the past few weeks are that this could be the campaign the Brazilian hits top gear.

Martinelli has been tipped for the top ever since he joined Arsenal in 2019 and now everything appears to be aligning for him to realise his potential.

He is physically stronger than ever, weighing 7kg more than he did three years ago, and now able to cope with the demands and intensity of the Premier League.

Gabriel Martinelli scored Arsenal’s first goal of the new season. (AFP via Getty Images)
Gabriel Martinelli scored Arsenal’s first goal of the new season. (AFP via Getty Images)

That much was clear on Friday night when he opened his account for the season by scoring in the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.

It was a simple header from a corner, but one that came as a relief to Martinelli after he squandered a golden chance 15 minutes earlier.

“It means a lot, I’m very happy with the goal,” he said. “But the most important thing is the win and we fought until the end. This is the spirit we need to have in the whole season.”

As well as his increased physicality, Arsenal’s new-look attack could help Martinelli thrive.

The arrival of Gabriel Jesus has had a transformative impact on the team and particularly Martinelli, who is revelling playing alongside his international team-mate.

Jesus has taken plenty of the spotlight since his £45million move from Manchester City, but Martinelli is flying under the radar and those at the club know how dangerous he can be.

Like Jesus, his ability to defend from the front makes him a valuable asset, and with Bukayo Saka in that the front three too suddenly Arsenal have a trio of players who can execute Arteta’s desire for high-pressing football.

Martinelli and Jesus have struck up a close relationship during pre-season, both on and off the field, but the pair first crossed paths years ago.

That was when a young Martinelli, who had not even officially joined Arsenal at that point, was invited to train with Brazil ahead of the 2019 Copa America.

Jesus was blown away by Martinelli in training, describing him as “an animal”, and he has kept tabs on the forward’s career ever since.

Now united at Arsenal, the pair are working well together and the chemistry between them is clear as they often rotate positions during the course of 90 minutes.

In many ways, the two have plenty of similarities given their excellent work ethic and hunger to improve.

That was one of the first things Arsenal’s technical director Edu noticed about Martinelli, analysing him as being different from traditional Brazilian players.

Martinelli has that Brazilian flair, but it is coupled with an attitude and desire not always seen from similar players.

It is why at Arsenal he is viewed by staff as a diamond. Perhaps a rough and raw one to start with, but a diamond nonetheless.

The fact Emile Smith Rowe has struggled for fitness during pre-season has only strengthened Martinelli’s case to make this season one to remember.

It has allowed the Brazilian to make that left-wing spot his own and the way he, Jesus and Saka have linked up in pre-season will make it difficult for others to work their way into Arteta’s plans.

Gabriel Martinelli is ready to hit top gear. (Action Images via Reuters)
Gabriel Martinelli is ready to hit top gear. (Action Images via Reuters)

That has been the story of Martinelli’s career to date - seizing chances and making the most of them.

It was the case when he was in the Brazilian fourth tier, making a name for himself as a teenager playing for Ituano, and it was the same when he joined Arsenal in 2019.

Back then, the coaches at Arsenal and Edu assumed the small youngster from Brazil would play for the Under-23s and then go on loan.

But within just a few sessions it was clear Martinelli was ready for the first team and testing himself against those in the Premier League.

The journey since then has been a steady one, with Arteta carefully increasing Martinelli’s minutes over the past two years.

Now, though, the boy from Brazil is out to show the Premier League he can be Arsenal’s main man.