Why Gabriel Martinelli still has a future at Arsenal

  • Gabriel Martinelli's form and appearances have dipped, but the Brazil forward still has a big future for Mikel Arteta's Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal FC - Premier League / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/GettyImages

Arsenal still need Gabriel Martinelli, despite his injuries and loss of form. A better understanding of the Brazil international's playing style could save Mikel Arteta and the Gunners a small fortune.

He's been injured, he's been out of form, he's been left on the bench. Safe to say this hasn't been Gabriel Martinelli's favourite season as an Arsenal player, but he's no forgotten figure.

Instead, Martinelli is a key player who still has a big future in Mikel Arteta's squad. That future will hinge on Arteta getting Martinelli back on form. A process dependant on forming a better understanding of the forward's style of play.

Gabriel Martinelli is no Bukayo Saka

Part of Martinelli's problem is how much he's been overshadowed by Bukayo Saka. People routinely witnessing the magic of Arsenal's main man naturally expect more of the same from Martinelli.

It doesn't help Martinelli is almost a completely different type of forward. While Saka is a classic wing wizard in the Arjen Robben mold, Martinelli is no true winger.

Arsenal's South American goal-getter is actually a more direct attacker. Saka will twist and turn, bob and weave, float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, but Martinelli's preferred route to goal is usually a straight line.

The line is usually travelled at light speed. Pace is the premium commodity in Martinelli's game. The type of pace that frightens the wits, not to mention other stuff, out of defenders. Just ask Virgil van Dijk.

He's the best centre-back of his generation, but Van Dijk was made to look decidedly ordinary by Martinelli when Arsenal dispatched Liverpool 3-1 at the Emirates back in February. Van Dijk quickly recognised Martinelli's threat, but he couldn't help right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Nor could Van Dijk avoid the kind of costly gaffe only defenders driven out of their minds commit.

This gift-wrapped goal remains the highlight of Martinelli's otherwise frustrating campaign. Although it's worth noting the 22-year-old has scored six goals and assisted four others in the Premier League, per WhoScored.com.

Not bad for a down year, but what's gone wrong for somebody who should be one of Arsenal's brightest young things?

Injuries, alternatives and support

Arteta knows Martinelli isn't happy about his lack of minutes recently. It's a sentiment shared by fellow Brazilian Gabriel Jesus, who could be on the transfer chopping block this summer.

Arteta remained defiant when questioned about the pair by ESPN Brasil:

"Everyone who doesn't play everything wants to play more. But that's my decision and what I feel at each time.

Both of them have been super important this season, and will also be these two remaining games and this is what this is about, when you have the moment you have to talk on the field and you have to say it on the field."

Mikel Arteta

The manager is merely responding on the fly to developments this season. Developments like Martinelli dealing with hamstring and foot injuries that have laid him low in crucial moments.

Those absences afforded chances for others. Nobody has done more to seize the opportunity than Leandro Trossard.

His purple patch has been a vital fillip for Arsenal's title push during the run-in.

Trossard has thrived precisely because he's more like Saka. A trickster out wide with a gifted touch in front of goal. While Trossard's skills have supported the likes of Saka and Kai Havertz, Martinelli has had no such assistance.

There's been no Martin Odegaard to combine with for Martinelli. Odegaard has kept busy staying tethered to Saka, according to Art de Roché of The Athletic:

"They rank first and second for passes made in the final third and chances created between two players for Arsenal. Saka has found his skipper 235 times, with Odegaard going the other way 195 times. Odegaard has created 22 chances for Saka, with the winger creating 18 chances in return — the highest combination of chances created between two players across the Premier League this season."

Art de Roché

Not having Oleksandr Zinchenko conducting a back and forth has hampered Martinelli, but a position switch could put the latter in a better place to be supported by Odegaard et al.

Gabriel Martinelli can make it as a striker

He likes the left channel, but Martinelli can still be the striker Arsenal need. Havertz has gone from strength to strength, but one of Arteta's biggest success stories can't match Martinelli as a finisher.

No other player in the squad can evoke memories of Thierry Henry in his pomp quite like Martinelli when he's scoring goals like this one against Crystal Palace.

Letting Martinelli find his form through the middle would give Arteta options regarding Gabriel Jesus, the chance to cash in on Eddie Nketiah and more starts for Trossard. It would also be the career redefining move Martinelli needs.

Without it, Martinelli is in danger of becoming more Sylvain Wiltord than Henry. Sometime winger, occasional striker, capable of a clutch goal, but ultimately a mere squad body.

Being more will eventually require Arteta unleashing Martinell's direct talents through the middle. It'll mean more of everything. More pace, more of the keen eye for goal, more passes from Odegaard, and more playing time.