Two games into the return of the Premier League season and it may be hard to decide which of the two games was more frustrating for Arsenal, and Gunner supporters around the world. Both had their own aspects that made them feels horrendous and both resulted in losses. However, neither involved Gabriel Martinelli and it has not gone unnoticed by fans.
Many noted his absence in the opening Manchester City game, but even more voiced their concern after the Brighton fixture. Not only the result of the Brighton match, but the context of Arsenal’s defeat makes the missing Brazilian spark all the more noticeable. Arsenal dominated possession of the ball having nearly 60% of it, yet were docile with it, bar their goal from Pepe and an early moment of brilliance from Saka that saw his shot rattle the bar.
They only managed 13 shots in the game, 6 on target, and quite clearly lacked a visual level of threat. That is to say, they rarely looked as though they were just waiting for their moment to spring a flurry of attacking movements to break the lines and dominate Brighton’s defense. One of the people that displays exactly that type of movement has been Gabriel Martinelli who has showcased an immensely mature level of ability when it comes to the timing of his runs. Cutting hard to the front post to the get on low crosses or just drifting off the back of defenders to get up and angle and header on frame – it’s impressive for a newly, 19-year-old.
But it’s more than that. Looking at Martinelli’s heat map, he is a presence up and down the wing on both sides of the ball. He naturally exudes confidence and his workrate every second he is on the pitch is noticeable and infectious.
Not only do we see a large amount of presence in an area just before midfield that shows a midfielder getting behind the ball and being defensively responsible, we get two spots inside the box on the left wing side and right on the penalty spot, two areas that often produce goals.
Martinelli as shown the world that he has a nose for goal, a brain for where to be and when to be there, and the athletic capabilities to shirk diligent defenders and work himself the extra foot of space to make something happen. It’s the exact type of player that could have been a real benefit on the left side, especially given Martinelli’s connection with fellow Golden Boy nominee – Bukayo Saka.
Saka was outstanding on the left side of the midfield-three, but the midfield-attacking-front connection was missing and neither side seemed to know how to make something happen with one another, outside of individual brilliance. Whether that is because Arsenal lack the experience of playing the formation together or lack the players and pieces to be a dominant 4-3-3, you can argue all day. I think it’s likely a combination of the two, but both games went poorly and Martinelli couldn’t find his way on the field. Even in a “must win” game that was level at 1-1.
The only aspect of Martinelli’s game I could see fault with is the inconsistent level of ball security. At 70% passing and 28% successful dribbles in the Premier League this year, Martinelli is arguably inconsistent at helping retain the ball. It’s inconsistency that comes from his youth, the fast-moving game, and his need for further adjustments to the level of play, but Arsenal lack offensive production in the form of chances and goals.
All of this makes fans wonder – where has the boy gone? Has he fallen out of favor when by all accounts he works hard day-in and day-out? Is it simply because that left wing role is locked down by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?
The answer lies within Mikel Arteta’s mind so we may never know, but with 2 losses in 2 games and Arsenal’s hopes of top 5 seeming like a pipe dream – it may be time to give Martinelli more time considering his future is locked up and lies in North London unlike a handful of others.