This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
In his first ever Premier League start, Gabriel Martinelli delivered emphatically as he helped Arsenal register an impressive victory against West Ham on Monday night.
The Brazilian had been in scintillating form for the Gunners in the cup competitions, proving himself to be a prolific goal-scorer in both the Europa League and Carabao Cup, scoring seven in six games respectively. Despite his form, the 18-year-old had not yet made his mark in the top-flight, featuring seven times without finding the back of the net – his total amount of game-time limited to just 96 minutes.
But amidst the Gunners’ win-less run of nine games, interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg turned to the 18-year-old from the off against the Hammers. And the starlet vindicated his manager’s decision. In a performance brimming with energy and desire, Martinelli epitomised everything that was good about Arsenal. The north London side came into the clash on the back of a dire sequence of results, and needed someone to galvanise them, and their summer signing provided them with that.
Whilst he scored the all-important equaliser to drag Arsenal back into the contest, his work off-the-ball arguably set the tone for the night. As per Sofascore, he won a team-high three tackles despite operating on the left-wing, often tracking back with intensity and chasing down his opponent to simply help out Kieran Tierney or Sead Kolasinac. The £7.2m-rated ace also won an impressive five ground duels, and those defensive numbers are a testament to the sheer herculean effort he gave.
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With Alexandre Lacazette struggling for consistency and form – he has scored just five times this season and even came under criticism from sections of the Gunners support despite finding the back of the net against Brighton – Martinelli showed that he is more than ready to fill his shoes. Whilst the former may be the bigger name, the latter’s relentless display means Ljungberg’s hand has been forced. There simply cannot be any reason for him to be dropped anytime soon.