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Gabriel Martinelli: From the Brazilian fourth tier to breakout star

Arsenal fans weren’t exactly blown away when the north London club announced the signing of Gabriel Martinelli last July.  This was, of course, before the Gunners smashed their club-record purchase of £72 million for winger Nicolas Pepe and many Gooners felt the teenage signing was a bit underwhelming.  Nevertheless, the £6 million fee to secure Martinelli already seems like an absolute steal just six months after his arrival to the Premier League club.

Coming to Arsenal from Brazilian fourth-tiered Ituano, there wasn’t exactly much expectations for the teenager to make an immediate impact on the senior Gunners.  However, the 18-year-old forward hugely impressed during the club’s preseason American tour and has gradually grown into an important player for Arsenal.  

Despite playing just six total minutes over his first month in England, Martinelli has directly contributed to a goal on his first start in every competition this season for the Gunners.  The Brazilian’s first senior start for Arsenal came during a 5-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup in September.  Martinelli netted a brace and was the standout performer on the night.

The young forward then scored another brace in his full debut in the Europa League, scored against West Ham in his first Premier League start, and provided an assist in Arsenal’s fourth round FA Cup victory against Bournemouth on Monday.  It certainly seems as if debuts don’t affect the youngster.  

Martinelli is, however, not just performing well in debuts.  The forward has racked up an impressive 10 goals and four assists in just 1,210 total minutes on the season so far.  This works out to a direct goal contribution every 86 minutes.  The youngster isn’t just capitalizing on lower level teams either.  Martinelli has managed to score against Liverpool, Chelsea, and Sheffield United, the Premier League’s second-best defensive side.

Able to play out on the flank and as a center forward, Martinelli is a versatile attacker.  The teen utilizes his blistering pace and skill set out on the wing and his outstanding finishing capabilities as a traditional center forward.  In fact, Martinelli has scored seven of his goals during the current campaign in as many appearances as a number nine.  

Martinelli’s quick rise at a young age has even caught the eye of Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.  “We as Brazilians are very excited about him and his future,” the former attacking midfielder told the Mirror.  “It is one thing to have the talent, but another at the age of 18 to have the confidence.”

“He reminds me of Ronaldo his first season in Europe, he scored 30 goals and people were thinking: ‘who is this 18-year-old Brazilian kid?’  He wanted the ball, he would run at players, there was no fear no matter what players or team he was playing against and I see that similar attitude in Martinelli.”

“He just wants to be on the ball and score goals.  Ronaldo went on to be the best player in the world and that can also be the aim of Martinelli.”

Ability and maturity are definitely there for the teen sensation; however, it’s his work rate that could propel him to the top.  There’s no denying what Martinelli can do with the ball, both out wide and with an eye on goal, but what he does off the ball is equally as impressive.  

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During a time in which fame and stardom could affect a young player’s attitude, no one works harder on the pitch than the 18-year-old Martinelli.  A glimpse of this impressive work rate was seen in the match against Chelsea earlier in the month.  Martinelli completed 26 sprints on the night, all while playing a majority of the match a man down.  No one else on the pitch made more than 14 sprints.

Improvements can obviously still be made, but Martinelli is well on his way to becoming a star in the sport.  His personality, to go along with the spectacular statistics, seems to be very likable and well-equipped to handle the popularity that comes along with being a star.  Arsenal fans have plenty to get excited about when it comes to their forward for the future.

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