Gabriel Martinelli: Football’s Next Superstar – Scout Report
This summer Arsenal signed an 18-year-old Brazilian forward, Gabriel Teodoro Martinelli Silva for a fee of £6 million from Ituano Football Club. Expectations were little to none for the boy from São Paulo in terms of his immediate first-team impact but he’s excelled and elevated the club single-handedly with his breakthrough performances. Starting as a rotation player under Unai Emery he impressed in cup games, scoring at Anfield against Liverpool and shredding Standard Liege at the Emirates.
Through these performances, he caught the eyes of the world and his manager. But, he would not get his first Premier League start until Freddie Ljungberg took over as an interim manager. In his first League start against West Ham United, he did exactly what he’s done: elevate the team. In a game where Arsenal struggled to create chances, he offered the cutting edge in the final third with his excellent predatory movement inside the box and fine finish to go along with it. He inspired a comeback from what was looking like a lifeless performance.
Under Mikel Arteta now he’s in a role that fits his skill set and player profile exceptionally well and has scored two in his previous two matches including a crucial goal against London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. In this scout report, we’ll explore why Gabriel Martinelli is becoming one of football’s most recognizable names and his value in Mikel Arteta’s tactics.
What position and role does he play in?
Under Unai Emery, he played as an out and out striker or as a traditional winger. As a striker, he offered something different in that he took it upon himself to press opposition defences out of possession – something Lacazette and Aubameyang were not being instructed to do at the time. As a traditional winger, his outstanding goal-scoring capabilities were limited however as he was pushed away from the box.
With Arteta taking the helm at Arsenal, he’s an inverted forward and it suits his skill set perfectly. As he uses he’s able to utilize his great ball control and dribbling ability in the wide areas. Making 1.2 successful dribbles in the Europa League and being fouled 0.8 times in the Premier League. But once the ball is into the final third he moves inside to the box, vacating the wide areas for the fullback to bomb into, where his exceptional off-the-ball movement inside the box is on full display. It’s fantastic as it gets the most out of the youngster’s best qualities.
How good of a goal scorer is he? Well…
- He’s been involved in a goal every 86 minutes for Arsenal, scoring 10 and assisting three.
- In Brazil, he scored 64 in 92.
- There are only 14 top-flight footballers with more goal involvements than him.
- Frist 18-year-old Arsenal player to score 10 goals since Niklas Anelka.
In his two matches with Arteta, he had an xG of 0.89 and 0.53, eight of 11 of his shots have come inside the penalty area Showing how this role really does get him into great positions as statistics show. Below is an analysis of his goal against Sheffield. Martinelli moves inside, vacating the wide space which is occupied by the left-back Saka. From his position his ready to make a movement to get onto the end of a cross from a wide position. He recognizes the defender is looking at the ball which gives him the opportunity to get in behind him and score. Comparable to the movements of top forwards such as Edison Cavani and his teammate Aubameyang. At his young age it’s truly incredible to see because you could make an argument that there are countless top-level strikers who don’t consistently example such quality play inside the box.
In his first Premier League goal, similarly, he moves inside and Kolasinac is in a position to make a pass into the penalty area. He recognizes this and times a run to perfection, losing his marker Declan Rice to get onto the end of the ball and be in a shooting position.
When outside the box he can use his pace and dribbling to progress the team forward and take players on. Against Chelsea, he recorded the highest speed on the pitch at 34.11 km/h, beating out the likes of Hector Bellerin, Nicolas Pepe and Callum Hudson-Odoi who have been considered some of the fastest players in world football.
His dribbling is better than most strikers, currently, his data size is from such a small sample size it’s unfair on him to try and compare him to other prospects with 10+ matches started. Against Sheffield United, he struggled in 1v1 situations against a much more physical, fullback where he only completed one of five take-ons. But that can be expected from a younger more undeveloped player.
In the image below he uses his clever dribbling and speed to nutmeg a player and blast past him progressing the Gunners forward into the opposition half.
As we mentioned before he offered something that Aubameyang and Lacazette didn’t and that was a pressing as a forward. Impressively he’s made 4.6 pressure regains per 90, closing off passing lanes and closing players down making 1.6 tackles per game, offering a large advantage in tactics. This desire and immense work rate is a big part of the reason why he’s such a fan favourite but with good reason as pressing forwards are a part of every largely successful side now as seen with Manchester City and Liverpool. At Stamford Bridge, he made 26 sprints the most of any player on the pitch.
Where does he fit in moving forward
As of writing this, the only reason Gabriel Martinelli got a chance in the starting XI was through Aubameyang’s suspension. As we detailed in this scout report the inverted forward role makes his best abilities shine. Currently, Alexander Lacazette operates as a false nine in a 4-2-3-1 which translates into a 2-3-5 in possession. As Martinelli’s shown he is an exceptional talent but benching Aubameyang long-term seems unlikely especially in this season.
His technical quality is great but would it be enough to bench Lacazette and take on the false nine role? Martinelli’s pass accuracy is at 67% compared to Lacazette’s 74%. The Frenchmen is learning as he goes, he isn’t the best at dropping into midfield to create solutions but is improving game-by-game since Arteta has arrived. One area that I also believe that Lacazette currently has him beat is holdup play. He’s been great against physical challenges against centre-backs and I don’t think Martinelli is physically developed enough to match that currently.
So he might just have to ride this season out and see where the opportunities fall. He has the skillset to develop further as an inverted forward, traditional 9, or false nine. Below you can see a player radar of advanced metrics from the Europa League which Martinelli had extensive game-time in and got to show what he was capable of.
Gabriel Martinelli is proving like many Brazilian forwards before him that he is a top talent. Surprising the world with every step he has taken so far, with his talent, the sky seems like the limit for him. As we saw in this scout report his skill set can fit a multitude of different roles in different tactics setups and he can be an integral piece to the Arsenal project moving forward and he will most certainly have a say on how this season ends for the North London club.