No one matched Gabriel Martinelli’s energy in Arsenal’s victory over West Ham United on Monday, as the teenager made his first Premier League start.
Martinelli’s Arsenal career got off to a fast start in the Europa League and the EFL Cup. The youngster scored on his debut in both competitions, but he had to wait for his opportunity in the Premier League against West Ham.
The 18-year-old made seven PL substitute appearances before Monday, and his biggest contribution was to set up Alexandre Lacazette’s late equaliser against Southampton. After Arsenal’s terrible run of games though, he finally made the starting lineup.
No one could question Martinelli’s application on the night, as he made 20 sprints across the 90 minutes. Incredibly, that’s twice as many as the next Arsenal player (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 10).
The young Brazilian led the team in tackles, and he scored the equaliser when they were desperate for one. He made the right run into the West Ham penalty area and finished his first chance of the match confidently.
Even with Arsenal 3-1 up, Martinelli didn’t stop pushing. It was the 97th minute of the match when Özil played him in behind the defence for the Gunners’ final chance of the game. Sadly, his shot was just about blocked on that occasion.
It was a night when you could accuse many of another sluggish first-half lacking in confidence. Though the Gunners saw a lot of the ball, there was little movement going forward. The team seemingly had no belief they could actually win the game.
Martinelli was the one player to keep pushing. A few of Arsenal’s attacking talents did step up afterwards to win the game. However, the teenager deserves full credit for sparking that comeback.
Whether Martinelli can maintain his goalscoring form over the coming months and years is impossible to say. As long as he keeps putting everything in whenever he’s on the pitch though, he’ll make things happen.
Winning back possession at an unlikely time, pressing an opponent into a mistake or catching a defender sleeping with a late run, these are all things Martinelli does regularly as a direct result of his work rate. It’s a breath of fresh air for this team.