At the time of Gabriel Martinelli’s arrival at Arsenal the fanfare that greeted him was viewed by some at the club as somewhat disproportionate to what could be reasonably expected of the youngster.
When the 18-year-old arrived at the club the matter of when and where he would make his debut focused on games at Borehamwood, Hitchin Town or Barnet. There were great hopes for Martinelli but expectations were being kept in check.
After all he had not even been picked up from the top tier of Brazilian football but from state football in Sao Paulo with Ituano; games against the top tier teams in the country were relatively few and far between for Martinelli in his 34 career games so far.
This was not just a minor step up for the teenager, as he himself relayed in an interview with FourFourTwo. “There were some pre-season assessments at the gym. All the players were there: [Mesut] Ozil, [Alexandre] Lacazette, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang… but I couldn’t speak a word of English.
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“‘Oh my god’ was my initial reaction.”
Looking back now it is remarkable to think that this shy youngster off the pitch could so swiftly become the terror of defences on it. On the glowing recommendation of head of international scouting Francis Cagigao, the man who unearthed Hector Bellerin and Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal were convinced they had found a star for the future but an immediate impact was not what they paid Ituano £8million for.
Instead the plan for the 2019/20 season had been that Martinelli feature predominantly for the Under-23s, at least early in the campaign. The cup competitions and potentially the Europa League would give Unai Emery opportunities to blood the Brazilian but it was a time for slow steps.
As early as the club’s pre-season tour of United States there were indications that such an approach simply wouldn’t do. Having terrorised Colorado Rapids in the opening game he made a thrilling impact off the bench against Fiorentina Emery was, by his own standards at least, glowing in his praise and willing to offer rare assurances that further minutes would come.
There was not much Emery did to deserve credit in his disastrous second season in north London but his commitment to Martinelli was impressive. Early in the season he would look to hand him what minutes he could in Premier League games with the bulk of his chances coming in the Europa League and EFL Cup.
It is hard to overstate how effectively Martinelli took those chances, with seven goals in his first four starts. That he has proven it is no flash in the pan with steadily improving performances in the Premier League is a measure of the composure that he has shown on and off the pitch.
Arsenal during the break
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