Gabriel Martinelli sent wavelengths throughout the footballing world after his wonderful solo strike against Chelsea on January 2020.
His astronomical rise saw praise come from all corners, even Brazilian all-time great Ronaldinho is a fan.
“He reminds me of Ronaldo in his first season in Europe, he scored 30 goals and people were thinking: ‘who is this 18 year old Brazilian kid?”, he said at the height of Martinelli’s early-career hype.
But two seasons later and in the same fixture, the Brazilian would see a turnaround in fortunes as he was kept largely anonymous by the Chelsea defence in Arsenal’s 2-0 home defeat.
Martinelli had 12 touches throughout the 79 minutes he was on the field as a striker, without him managing to pull off a single shot.
The difference in these games was the position of the young forward. Looking lost playing as a number 9 on the weekend, Arsenal fans have started to question which position is his best.
Whenever Arsenal had the ball in the final-third, there was a clear lack of attacking presence through the middle, where the 20-year-old was positioned.
This was elaborated by Chelsea striker, Romelu Lukaku’s sheer dominance over the Gunners’ defence at the other end.
However, it would be unfair to criticise the youngster because he was leading the line against a defence that has broken clean-sheet records under Thomas Tuchel.
This doesn’t help by the fact that the Gunners have been extremely goal-shy of late with clear-cut chances a rare feature in the team. The club has scored one goal in their previous four games this season.
The lack of creativity certainly played a part in Martinelli’s invisible-like performance, however with a more natural striker the North London side certainly would have benefited.
He was caught offside two times in the game and on both of these occasions, the home side had created a lot of momentum to possibly capitalise before the youngster would disrupt the attack due to his poor position awareness.
In Martinelli’s most memorable game for Arsenal against Chelsea in 2020, he was used a left-winger which is a place he seems more comfortable – certainly under Mikel Arteta.
The youngster looks more assured with the ball at his feet and he is able to run at the defence, rather than having his back towards goal and having to fight with a centre-back.
Arteta played the Brazilian on the left-wing throughout the course of last season, featuring there 19 times whilst playing just twice through the middle.
The Brazilian Olympic team and the national youth team set-ups also view him in the same way as he is primarily utilised as a left-winger.
Despite this, there is no doubting that Martinelli has a future at the centre-forward position. Speaking on BT Sport as a pundit, former Arsenal striker Robin van Persie believes that they could follow a similar career path. He said: “The moves he makes, he is always looking for space. I was playing on the wing at that age. With time he will get even better.”
Arsenal fans were given glimpses when Unai Emery was manager of what the 20-year-old’s potential could be playing as a striker in the future.
Against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup in 2019, Martinelli would score a brace in an end-to-end 5-5 final score.
After full-time, The Reds manager, Jurgen Klopp described the Brazilian as being an “Incredible striker.”
In a competition which is certainly less intense than the Premier League, the youngster was able to thrive in a central striker role.
It was also in this season that Martinelli became the first teenager since Nicholas Anelka in the 1998/99 season to score 10 goals or more in all competitions for Arsenal.
If Martinelli is to play in the forward role in the Premier League, he needs more experience playing on the wings to grasp the knowledge of a forward and improve his strength so he is able to manoeuvre with his back towards the goal.
However this comes without criticism as even Thierry Henry started his career running at defenders on the touchline.
The match against Chelsea shouldn’t put doubts in the fans minds as playing against a back-three as a lone striker is a difficult feat for even an experienced head. Folarin Balogun had a similar experience in the opening Premier League game against Brentford.
Footballing legends such as Ronaldinho have sung the praises for Gabriel Martinelli as a forward. The potential is certainly there.
Source by Football London