Gabriel Martinelli's Performance Against Manchester City Gives Gunners Much Needed Hope

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Dec 22, 2020, 10:34 PM GMT
Martinelli made his long awaited return to senior action recently
Martinelli made his long awaited return to senior action recently | ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images
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There has been depressingly little to get excited about for Arsenal fans this season.

The results have been bad, the football even worse and almost every player in Mikel Arteta's squad has been drastically underperforming.

Any hope Arsenal supporters had of the drudgery subsiding were seemingly extinguished when Gabriel Jesus put Manchester City 1-0 up inside two minutes of Tuesday evening's Carabao Cup quarter final.

The goal was a horrific one to concede and was in keeping with the Gunners' woeful start to the campaign. A defensive mixup between Runar Alex Runarsson, Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi allowed Jesus a completely free header and he made no mistake, nodding Oleksandr Zinchenko's cross into the back of the net.

After the goal went in it felt like business as usual for Arteta's side. For a good 10 minutes or so they looked typically stodgy going forward. It was all very predictable, sterile and far too regimented.

Yet, amid this familiar dirge, the returning Gabriel Martinelli provided a much needed dose of hope and invention.

Martinelli's return was extremely promising
Martinelli's return was extremely promising | ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

The Brazilian's breakthrough last term was one of the high points of the Gunners' season. Before a knee injury ruled him out for the campaign, he racked up 14 direct goal involvements in 26 games.

It wasn't his fine statistical output that got fans' mouths watering though, it was his entire approach. Still a teenager, Martinelli plays with no fear and despite his lengthy absence he showed a great deal of this bravery against City.

Pressing with more intensity than any Arsenal forward so far this season, he spearheaded his side's first half fightback and was at the centre of everything promising.

He wasn't perfect by any means, losing possession four times in the opening 45 minutes, but at least he was trying something. This is exactly what Arsenal need right now. Someone who has not had to live through their nightmarish start to the season. Someone who isn't afraid of taking risks and getting at the opposition.

The highlight of Martinelli's eye-catching display was providing the assist for Alexandre Lacazette's equaliser on the half hour mark. Not giving up on his heavy first touch, the speedster raced down to the byline and produced a sumptuous, looping cross which Lacazette headed home powerfully.

Of course though, Arsenal fans are seemingly not allowed to have nice things this season and soon after setting up their equaliser, he received a heavy challenge from stand-in City stopper Zack Steffen. Sliding in to sweep up a through ball, Steffen caught Martinelli on the toe.

Although he would be passed fit to continue at the break, he lasted just a few second half minutes before hobbling off and being replaced by Nicolas Pepe. Then came that Runarsson error which gave City the confidence to put the game to bed.

Arteta will be crossing everything, hoping that Martinelli's absence is a short one. A player of his bravery and talent is exactly what Arsenal need to lift them out of the doldrums.

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