We’ve seen what Gabriel Martinelli’s capable off already but looking at him from the start of pre-season and up until now, he looks ready for the next step.
Many people, including myself thought that Arsenal need a real proven threat on that left wing to partner Jesus and Saka. But Martinelli’s proved me wrong and I’ve changed my opinion since. He came back from the summer break different. The touches felt more secure, every dribble had a purpose and Jesus and Zinchenko’s inclusion moved him away from strictly holding the width in this team. It might have only been pre-season but he’s more than shown a different side of himself coming into this season, scoring 2 goals in 2 games for now. He looks DANGEROUS and that’s on top of keeping his previous hard working mentality off the ball.
Last season we’ve seen great stuff from Martinelli, he kept width and had games where he blew by his opposition. But there were ways to contain him. If you pushed him wide enough and kept him there, you could cut him off from games, the smaller the space got the easier he was to limit from games. Lacazette and lack of fluidity on the left hand side AT TIMES of Arsenal’s attacks meant Martinelli had to work hard for his yard or two. There were periods where he looked unplayable but the same small problems remained. He ended the PL season with 12 goals/assists.
I’ve wrote already about how I can see a connection forming between him and Jesus and so far I’ve been proved right. Indeed, the left-hand side dynamics of Arsenal’s attack look a lot more fluid than the right for now and Martinelli’s been at the heart of it.
Martinelli seems to be relishing his “new” role, Lacazette’s lack of movement often meant he was stuck on the sideline in order too keep width. He obviously still does that but the add ons to the role are crucial. Zinchenko pushing up and offering supreme tehnical security in and around the middle and final third of the pitch means more and often better options for Martinelli to work with. Both Tierney and Tavares don’t really excel in intricate combination plays in the middle and final third but Zinchenko does.
On the other hand, Jesus offers fluidity and a player who he can play off of and combine with. Having a runner like Martinelli in Arsenal’s current attack is crucial, it’s part of the reasoning why I changed my stance on why Arsenal shouldn’t be getting a new starting left winger. Both Jesus and Saka love the ball to feet and GM just fits them.
📊 Jesus’ heat map in 22/23 vs Lacazette’s in 21/22 from Arsenal’s home fixture against Leicester.— TheAFCnewsroom (@TheAFCnewsroom) August 18, 2022
Jesus noticeably floats to Martinelli’s side more than Saka’s and that’s not all. Jesus will purposefully switch to left wing and let Martinelli be the striker in some attacks. A switch Martinelli will thrive with, considering he’s somewhat of a striker at heart. Arteta’s attack was called too rigid and stale at times but the fluidity Arsenal are showing now proves how the correct profiles and players were all that’s needed for Arsenal’s attack to blossom and that he in fact isn’t too pragmatic of a coach.
IMPROVEMENTS IN HIS GAME
If you’ve been following my Twitter account, you’d know this is something I noticed on early. As we previously mentioned, Martinelli’s role last season was to keep width on the left. The personnel around him wasn’t perfect for his style of play and what he wants to be in the future. The role as such requires someone who’s comfortable receiving wide and getting into the take on stance QUICKLY and comfortably. Bare with me here.
Is he a good dribbler? Absolutely. But he has a slightly unorthodox dribbling style (head down in the floor when dribbling) which became especially noticeable when the space was cut off from him – this is last season I’m talking about. He’s not the only player with this way of dribbling and Pedro Neto’s one is similar. However, Neto had more in his arsenal and it could have been masked earlier on than Martinelli’s.
He must work on improving his take on patterns and executing moves in one fluid motion.— BP (@BallProgression) March 18, 2022
I’ve seen plenty of attackers go to a similar stance when executing shots and final passes and while it’s not perfect, it’s much less highlighted as an error (other things in play).
Other players do this too, Suarez and Alexis the other noticeable ones. He seems to have polished his attacking patterns more and you can see that idea as soon as he receives the ball these days as that’s what he was missing sometimes last season.
Martinelli made a huge jump this season however. He never had problems with intensity and that remained at same very high level. Zinchenko and Jesus (and Xhaka) are letting him off the leash it seems like at times, in terms of chaos he causes. That what we’ve seen in glimpses last season, his ball retention in crowded spaces and venturing off with freedom into the box, has reached a new level this season. He looks like a man on a mission. He looks at ease combining wide and centrally, his runs are direct and dangerous, his take ons cause uncertainty for defenders. But most importantly he does all of this with such new-found convinction. The only way from here is up and he’s moulded his game around his somewhat unordinary dribbling stance completely, much sooner than I thought. It’s barely noticeable these days.
Is he flawless? No, but he 100% warrants the praise. He still has work to do but it looks like his true role and place in this team has been found.
MUST READ: Gabriel Jesus – Pre-season 2022/23 Recap