Martinelli is becoming an increasingly key figure for Arsenal and now has a chance to fulfil his long-term ambition at the club with a famous jersey on his back
Image: Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Gabriel Martinelli could well find himself in the right place at the right time to take his Arsenal career to the next level this season.
The Brazilian enjoyed a remarkable start to life in the Gunners’ first team before a number of injury issues stalled his impressive development.
But after shaking off his fitness problems, the 20-year-old is now seemingly firing on all cylinders again, which is welcome news for boss Mikel Arteta.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s departure and Arsenal’s impending striker exodus have shone a spotlight on Arteta’s failure to bring in any new additions for his frontline over January.
Yet with Martinelli drawing plaudits for his recent performances – including Jurgen Klopp’s “outstanding” verdict – it could now be time for the young striker to finally fulfil his Arsenal ambition.
HAVE YOUR SAY : How can Arteta get the best out of Martinelli? Let us know in the comments below.
Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
For all the criticism aimed at Aubameyang, the former Arsenal skipper was well-liked and appreciated among the younger strike talents in the squad, who benefited from his experience and advice in the dressing room.
But that didn’t stop Martinelli from targeting the shirt on his old captain’s back.
Speaking last February, Martinelli told ESPN Brazil: “Of course, Auba is an incredible player. Not just a player, an incredible person.
“It’s a pleasure to have him in the team. He’s a guy who plays in my position. I can look at him every day and try to learn as much as possible.
“I certainly hope to be playing in the near future.
“And follow in his footsteps, he’s captain of the team, wearing shirt 14, which is a symbol of the club. I hope to have a bright future ahead at Arsenal.”
There should be little stopping Martinelli from swapping his current no.35 for the jersey made famous by Thierry Henry.
Arsenal were happy to hand Emile Smith Rowe the No.10 shirt in the summer, despite the weight of expectation sewn into its fabric following the magic of Dennis Bergkamp and to a lesser extent Mesut Ozil.
However, the next phase of Martinelli’s Arsenal journey will likely begin to take shape before he swaps shirt numbers.
Having played much of his time under Arteta on the left-wing, it appears he could now be thrust into the role of central striker on a more frequent basis in the post-Aubameyang era.
Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
With Alexandre Lacazette also nearing the exit door in the summer, as well as Eddie Nketiah, Arsenal are in need of a new star to lead the line.
A recent report from Football.London claims that Arteta has already been working on fitting Martinelli to that mould, with Arsenal’s Dubai training camp seeing the youngster operating through the middle as well as on either flank.
It is expected Arsenal will make a move for a new forward in the summer, having missed out on Dusan Vlahovic and opting against meeting Aleksander Isak’s extortionate release clause fee in January.
Though perhaps Martinelli is the ideal option, with Arteta admitting he sees him as a more central striker, while the player himself would prefer to fulfil that role.
“[Martinelli’s] overall understanding of the game is getting much better,” Arteta said last month. “He’s able to put some gears into his play.
“[Aubameyang and Martinelli] are centre forwards but with the squad balance that we have at the moment, to play on those positions on the left we don’t have five players,” he said.
Martinelli himself previously told Brazilian YouTube channel Bolivia Talk Show: “I like to play open and I play quite centrally, but I prefer to start wide.
“But my preference is always just to play, centre-half, full-back, goalkeeper, I just want to play.”
With Arteta’s new young revolution continuing to develop, there is little chance of Martinelli not being part of the picture – he could well be the main feature.