Gabriel Martinelli: How brilliant Brazilian quickly became an Arsenal star as he pushes for World Cup berth

Gabriel Martinelli: How brilliant Brazilian quickly became an Arsenal star as he pushes for World Cup berth

There was a time when games such as tonight’s Europa League clash against FC Zurich would be a rare chance for Gabriel Martinelli to shine.

When Martinelli joined Arsenal as an 18-year-old in 2019, the club used the Europa League to blood him into the first team, but now the Brazilian is one of the team’s star players.

With Arsenal just needing to match PSV Eindhoven’s result against Bodo/Glimt to top Group A — and get a bye to the last-16 — Mikel Arteta is expected to make changes ahead of their game against Chelsea on Sunday. Martinelli, however, is primed to start to ensure the Gunners get the job done.

The forward has been in brilliant form this season and is Arsenal’s joint top scorer on five goals along with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Jesus.

“I am not going to tell you [my goal target],” said Martinelli. “But before the season started I was talking to my dad and I said: ‘I will score this amount of games and give this amount of assists’.

Incredible rise: Gabriel Martinelli continues to go from strength to strength at Arsenal (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Incredible rise: Gabriel Martinelli continues to go from strength to strength at Arsenal (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“I always try to have a number in my mind and try to achieve it. I am doing well so I hope at the end of the season I reach my numbers.”

It is now just over three years since Martinelli joined Arsenal for about £6million from Ituano, who at the time were playing in the Brazilian fourth division.

He arrived barely speaking a word of English, while his small frame made some at the club question whether it would be best if he spent a year on loan abroad before playing in the Premier League. Martinelli shone on Arsenal’s pre-season tour to the United States, though, and it was decided that he would stay at the club. The forward then worked hard to increase his strength and he now even has his own gym at home.

Martinelli’s diet improved, thanks largely to him employing a chef and taking on board advice from Arsenal’s club nutritionist. As a result, he is now seven kilograms heavier than when he came to England in 2019.

Given how he has battled to the top at Arsenal, you would be wise not to bet against Martinelli making Brazil’s World Cup squad

His English has dramatically improved too, with Martinelli taking regular lessons and having been encouraged by then Gunners goalkeeper Emi Martinez not to speak in Portuguese around the training ground.

There was no one with an easier job yesterday than the translator who sat next to Martinelli as he spoke to the media in perfect English.

“I came from a small club in Brazil to play for Arsenal,” said Martinelli. “It’s a big step and I knew that I had to change a lot of things to improve and to play here because one thing is coming to play and another thing is to play.

“I knew that and since day one I have always tried to do the right things, with my diet and what I need to do in the gym.”

Martinelli’s hard work at Arsenal has paid off and he now hopes to catch the eye of Brazil. The 21-year-old is pushing to make the squad for this month’s World Cup, but their forward line is arguably the most competitive in world football.

“I want to be there as well, I want to be on the list,” said Martinelli. “Of course I want Brazil to do well in the World Cup and win it.”

Martinelli had only just made his professional debut when the previous World Cup took place, so going to Qatar would underline his incredible rise. But given how he has battled to the top, you would be wise not to bet against Martinelli making Brazil’s squad.