Criticism has followed Arsenal like the rain of late but in the Europa league, Arsenal look like a different side. It’s slightly odd but this is mainly because of cloudy judgement and team selections courtesy of Unai Emery, who left out both Bellerin and Tierney from Monday’s dull draw at the ‘theatre of dreams’. But there were many positives against Standard Liege and the biggest one was the performance of youngster Martinelli.
For all the insipid performances that Arsenal have offered up so far, they appear to look at their European adventures as something of a liberating vacation, because they play with a greater freedom and expression than when they appear in their domestic overalls. One thing Arsenal fans wont disagree about Emery is him promoting youth players in the senior squad with the likes of Nelson, Willock starting in European games.
Arsenal have a wealth of talent tucked away at the Emirates but it’s not one of its nurtured academy players that is starting to gain attention, it’s the £7m bargain from the summer spending spree, Gabriel Martinelli, thanks to Edu and Sanllehi.
Arsenal appear to have a knack of buying the brightest emerging talent for around the same fee, with Matteo Guendouzi being the last to make such an impact. Martinelli has apparently based his game on his idol Cristiano Ronaldo and there are signs that his hero worship has had a significant influence on his game.
Martinelli was sharp against Standard Liege and looked to be a constant threat not only in terms of scoring but with his efforts to assist. Despite Emery’s belief that the player is not a striker, he sure looks like one. His movement was quick, and he was constantly pressing the Liege players.
When asked about Martinelli, Emery said,
“He prefers to play as a left winger – he also played as a right winger. I am using him as a striker because he played in that position in Brazil. Striker is not the best position for him. But the first thing in his mind is to help us.”
Well, you could have fooled me, there were shades of Henry about Martinelli at times as he tormented and teased Liege with his pace, inventiveness and trickery, which bagged him the opening two goals.
Martinelli looked a class act and for Arsenal fans, he is very much the future and the present for Arsenal Football Club.