Gabriel Martinelli has been one of the standout players for Arsenal this season, with the Gunners sitting top of the division. His performances haven’t gone unnoticed. Brazilian manager, Tite, has called him up to the squad for the World Cup. There were doubts about whether he would manage to get into the squad, due to the attacking depth and the lack of previous call-ups. However, he has been performing great at the Emirates Stadium and he has done enough to gatecrash the Selecao squad.
This season, the Brazilian has been a consistent attacking threat for Arsenal. Emile Smith Rowe was battling Martinelli for a starting berth prior to his injury, but the Englishman struggled to get past his in-form team-mate. Martinelli has contributed five goals and two assists so far. There will be hope that he can push on and smash his previous best return. That came last season, when he scored six and assisted six.
Arsenal have an array of young talent and Mikel Arteta has proven himself as a very good coach with this profile of player. Martinelli was signed under the radar by the previous manager. It was a great piece of recruitment from the club, and they have developed him smartly. There were concerns about his progression a few years ago, when he suffered a serious injury.
These can be severely damaging for a young player, but Arsenal managed to help him through that period. They are now benefitting from his performances on the pitch, and he has been rewarded with a World Cup call-up.
Martinelli is currently averaging 0.24 expected goals (xG) and 0.27 expected assisted goals (xAG) per ninety minutes, meaning he averages 0.52 expected goal involvements per ninety minutes. This is impressive and underlines why he is a regular for Mikel Arteta.
To provide context, his attacking team-mates, Gabrial Jesus (0.81 xGI) and Bukayo Saka (0.59 xGI) are displaying more threat, but Martinelli’s numbers are up there with them. Interestingly, he is displaying the most creativity of the three, with the highest xAG per ninety.
It has been a breakthrough 12 months for Martinelli. His good form probably started at the beginning of 2022, and it has continued throughout. His average of 2.64 shots per ninety minutes shows his ability to get efforts in on goal. On the left wing, he is dangerous as he can go down either side. When he chooses to cut inside, he does pose a big threat.
Mikel Arteta will be delighted that one of his young players has managed to break into the Brazil squad. It is a good news story for the club and one that emphasises the club’s stature in the game.
Although it is a fantastic opportunity for Martinelli, it is unlikely that he will play a prominent role in Qatar. He has a certain Neymar Jr in front of him and the PSG attacker is the talisman for Brazil. However, Martinelli is full of confidence, and he will believe that he can have an influence on the tournament.
The World Cup is often defined by moments. If Martinelli has a chance in a key match for Brazil, he could have one of his own. That would cap off his breakout year.
Stats taken from fbref (powered by Stats Perform)