In Focus: Fab Gab on a mission to fire Gunners into top four
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are firing on all cylinders — and Gabriel Martinelli is the Gunners’ renaissance man.
The Brazilian hit a double as his side ran out 4-1 winners at Leeds on Saturday, taking his total to four goals for the season.
Ahead of tonight’s Carabao Cup quarter-final against Sunderland, we take a look at how Martinelli has fought his way firmly into the first-team picture at the Emirates and why he may be a ready-made replacement for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Martinelli burst onto the scene at the start of the 2019-20 campaign, scoring seven goals in his first seven appearances for Arsenal after joining from Brazilian outfit Ituano.
Following his brace in an extraordinary 5-5 Carabao Cup draw with Liverpool, which the Gunners lost on penalties, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp called the then 18-year-old forward the "talent of the century".
Martinelli featured 26 times in his first campaign before picking up a knee injury in June which would sideline him for the best part of six months.
On the comeback trail
Martinelli returned from injury in December 2020 and went on to make 22 appearances last season — but he started only seven Premier League games, just one more than he had the year previous.
Things have changed this term though. The Olympic gold medallist has already made seven league starts, including each of Arsenal’s last five matches.
In recent weeks, there have been signs of the 20-year-old forming an effective front three with team-mates Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette.
Heading in the right direction
Arteta was full of praise for Martinelli following his brace against Leeds.
He said: "He has come a long, long way because of his energy, his passion, his commitment. It doesn’t get much better than that ever.
"But there are other aspects in the game that he’s had to develop, and maintain the ones that he’s exceptional at.
"Like today, because when he has chances he puts them away — he’s in the right direction."
Crunching the numbers
With a goal every 197 minutes across the Premier League and Carabao Cup, Martinelli is one of Arsenal’s most frequent scorers this season.
In fact, just Aubameyang and Emile Smith Rowe have found the net more often among Gunners players who have racked up over five hours of action in all competitions.
In terms of minutes per goal purely from open play, Martinelli ranks behind only Smith Rowe.
And as Arteta alluded to, the North Londoners’ No35 has shown himself to be a clinical finisher. His Premier League big chance conversion rate of 66.6% is the highest of any Arsenal player to have three or more such opportunities so far.
What is next?
While rotation over the hectic festive period is a given, Martinelli is likely to make his sixth successive Premier League start when Arsenal travel to Norwich on Boxing Day.
But could his role in the Gunners’ frontline transform in the near future? A wide forward by trade, he has played through the middle before — and his potency in front of goal might at least prompt a discussion about converting him into a No9.
With Aubameyang rumoured to be heading for the Emirates' exit door and Lacazette not expected to sign a new deal, there might soon be a vacancy at the forefront of Arsenal’s attack.