From São Paulo To Arsenal - Why Gabriel Martinelli’s Getting The Gunners Giddy

The 18-year old is the highest-scoring teenager across Europe's top five leagues this season
13:01, 22 Jan 2020

Two players have reached double figures in goals for Arsenal this season across all competitions. 

One is £56million signing and 2018/19 Premier League Golden Boot winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, former Africa and Bundesliga Player of the Year. He has contributed 16 to the cause. 

The other is Gabriel Martinelli, the 18-year old with 10.

With Aubameyang out following his dismissal at Crystal Palace, it was time for Martinelli to bask in the spotlight once again on Tuesday, being granted his fifth league start of the season and bagging a goal for the second time in consecutive games.

By scoring in the thrilling 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, he has become the first teenager to get into double figures for goals in a single season for Arsenal in all competitions since Nicolas Anelka in 1998/99. He is also now the highest-scoring teenager across Europe's top five leagues this season. 

From a cleared Chelsea set-piece, Martinelli broke away to sprint towards the Blues goal and keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, taking advantage of Antonio Rudiger’s mid-pitch slip to go alone and slot cooly for the first equaliser. The confidence was palpable and was accentuated in his celebration, standing proud and staunch amidst the adoration of the travelling crowd who had made the journey across London.

It signals a remarkable ascendancy for a forward who was playing in the Brazilian fourth tier a season ago. Martinelli arrived under former manager Unai Emery as Arsenal’s first signing of summer 2019, from South American club Ituano. The fee was speculated to be around the £6million mark.

A little over six months into his time in north London, Martinelli has swiftly become a fan favourite, an affection which the teenager has reciprocated in kind.

To the tune of 'Sugar, Sugar' by The Archies, 'Gabi, do do do, oh Martinelli. He comes from São Paulo, and he plays for Arsenal' has become a familiar sound from the Arsenal supporters. The forward took to social media - 'Thank you for the support' with a praying emoji - after he became a positive central focus from the home fans in his 23-minute cameo during their narrow win over Leeds United in the FA Cup third round at the Emirates.

A season of highlights has seen a brace in each of his two League Cup appearances, but he has particularly thrived in the Europa League, with involvement in six goals in five appearances as the Gunners marched into the knockout stages of the tournament. Arsenal’s next venture across the continent is against 44-time Greek champions Olympiacos.

"That young man, he has the club in the palm of his hands," former Gunner and now TV pundit Martin Keown declared about the young Brazilian in the wake of his attention-grabbing performance against Chelsea. 

"He can take it wherever he wants. He was the youngest player on the pitch out there for Arsenal and he showed the experienced players how it was done. 

"He really is absolutely outstanding. He was certain he was going to put [his goal] away.

"His instinct for goal, his movement off the ball, show me another 18-year-old in Europe doing this?”

Martinelli currently has a better minutes-to-goal ratio across all competitions than Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy, scoring at a rate of one goal every 112 minutes. Salah is currently hitting the back of the net every 172.3 minutes, Sterling 129.5mins, and the 2019/20 Premier League top scorer Vardy at 127.1mins.

Furthermore, after 21 games for a combined 1120 minutes, Martinelli’s 10 goals and three assists mean that he has been directly involved in a goal for Arsenal every 86 minutes.

In July he became the ninth Brazilian to join the Gunners and cites two other Brasileiros for his decision to move to Arsenal. "I know [former Gunners midfielder and current technical director] Edu, Denilson and I know that they have a lot of history at the club," Martinelli told the club website upon signing.

Denilson followed a similar trajectory to Martinelli, becoming an Arsenal player at 18 years old from São Paulo, and spending five years in the capital. He eventually returned to O Clube da Fé after five years and just over 150 appearances, scoring 10 goals - an overall goal tally at the club that Martinelli has already matched.

Aubameyang will be eligible to return to action for Arsenal for their next Premier League game at Burnley and the 30-year-old Gabonese will be well aware that his absence hasn’t been monumentally felt thanks to the efforts of his younger counterpart.

His tweet following Martinelli’s impact in west London, the suspicious side-eyes emoji, could well be indicative that his role as Arsenal’s main man may not be entirely as secure as originally believed.