Unai Emery has spoken about a fighting performance from Gabriel Martinelli against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, praising the youngster’s progress so far.
Like Matteo Guendouzi a year earlier, Martinelli was viewed as ‘one for the future’ more than anything else after signing for Arsenal this summer.
That changed somewhat in pre-season, as the youngster impressed on tour with the Gunners. He scored once, and he arguably should’ve put two or three more away before the competitive games got underway.
The young Brazilian had the chance to rectify that against Nottingham Forest, starting up front in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Tyreece John-Jules. He made full use of the opportunity, scoring twice in a 5-0 win.
Emery was impressed with the performance, and revealed what he told Martinelli ahead of the game.
“Martinelli is a very young player,” Emery began. “But he came here and we were waiting and watching him, how he could improve with us and really, really in the pre-season he played very well.
“He was working in each training with a big spirit and with a big performance and I spoke with him to have some passion for when he gets his opportunity to play, to do like he was doing in the training and the matches in the pre-season.
“Tonight he did that. Really, he deserved it because he is very humble, a humble player and he fights, he is hungry to have that opportunity to help us and really it was perfect, his work tonight.”
It’s hard to argue with anything the head coach has said there. Every time we’ve seen Martinelli take to the pitch he’s given everything he’s got, pressing players and chasing down lost causes.
The 18-year-old also looks like a genuine threat going forward. He picks up great positions in the box, he’s confident in the air despite his size and he seems happy to take shots on with either foot.
The one gripe is perhaps that he gets his head down a bit too much. His fake shots and turns worked well against Nottingham Forest but if he’d looked up he often could’ve played a teammate in instead.
That’s something he can learn though, and it’s fairly common for a player his age. The rest is all very exciting.