By Tony Attwood
Last night Gabriel Teodoro Martinelli Silva aged 18, scored his 10th goal of the season. He is the first teenager to get to 10 goals in a season at Arsenal in 21 years.
It is a staggering achievement given that he has not just changed clubs but also continents, and achieved this feat while Arsenal have struggled through much of the season, including having three different men as managers during the course of the young players time with Arsenal – and the season still has quite a long way to run.
The last man to get to the double figure mark as a teenager at Arsenal was Nicolas Anelka in 1998-1999. He had come from PSG in 1997, having played ten times for them, scoring just one goal. But Mr Wenger saw the potential, and not only bought him in 1997 but regularly played him. Anelka scored 23 goals in 65 games before reluctantly being sold to Real Madrid in 1999 (Mr Wenger’s plan being to play Anelka and Henry as the dual forward line). It was said that the profit on the sale of Anelka paid for the new Arsenal training centre that Mr Wenger wanted built.
Anelka then developed an incessant wanderlust and regularly moved from club to club. He was last heard of as youth offensive coach at Lille, a post he took up in November 2018.
But much more to the point: Martinelli is not showing any of the personality problems that were a central part of Anelka’s make up.
Aged 18 he has played in 21 games this season. Five times in the Europa League, twice in the League Cup, once in the FA Cup and 13 times in the League. So far he’s got three league goals, four league cup goals, and three Europa goals. That is a goal scoring rate of 0.48 goals per game. Not that far off Henry in his first season.
But by way of comparison, when Henry joined Arsenal, he had already had six seasons playing with the big boys and had reached 31 goals in 160 games. In his first season at Arsenal Henry got 26 in 47 games. One in every 0.55 games. Only just a little above what Martinelli is currently achieving with far, far less experience.
Thus, based on any reasonable comparisons, Arsenal have got themselves a young goalscoring sensation who can both lead the line and play out wide. (There was considerable condemnation of Mr Emery when in one Europa Cup game he moved Martinelli to the wing for the last 15 minutes or so, but this was clearly to see how Martinelli could play out wide with the main striker of the club on the pitch at the same time. The continuing goal scoring suggests that centre forward is where he should be playing – but out wide is also an option).
If this is the case comparisons could be made further back, with Cliff Bastin, who like Martinelli saw himself as winger. Bastin was signed aged 16, having played 17 games for Exeter and scoring six goals. He scored 150 goals in 350 games for Arsenal, all from the wing, and would have played many, many more had not the second world war curtailed his career.
Internationally Martinelli could still play for Italy instead of Brazil, as he has an Italian father and has not yet been selected for the Brazil first team. His transfer fee to us was said to be around £6m although before last night Transfer Market had his current value at £16m. I suspect that is about to go up again.
Arsenal’s bid for the player when he moved from Brazil was not the highest, but several interviews with Martinelli’s father Joao Carlos, have reported that the club stated clearly that they did not want to loan him out – but like Anelka, wanted to get him playing for the first team from the start.
Joao Carlos is quoted as saying that Arsenal “have a plan for him and are expecting to see him reach his peak within one to three seasons. It would have been no use picking an offer, say, £10 million higher, if he did not get a proper chance in the end to grow. I have no doubt that he’ll develop further training with the first team. I believe that in six months’ time he’ll be delivering the goods.”
And in many ways he has already done that, having been included in the training camp with the senior Brazil squad, ahead of the Copa America.
When Arsenal did enquire about the player he was said to be about to move to PSV Eindhoven but Arsenal scout Everton Gushiken was insistent that this was the player the club should go for.
And what seems to have impressed everyone is his attitude. Carlos Correa who is one of Martinelli’s mentors said recently in an interview, “He stands out for his attitude on the pitch—when you watch him play, you get the impression he’s been around for a long time. And then you realise he’s still a boy and has ridiculous potential.”
At Ituano, Martinelli worked under Juninho Paulista, who in an interview said of the player, “He has a big character, always tries to play the same way, whether it’s against great teams or smaller ones. I’ve told him to carry on and maintain his playing style—driving the ball forward quickly and skilfully and finishing his plays accurately.”
And when we read that Martinelli models his game on Cristiano Ronaldo, the potential starts to become really apparent. Let’s hope we can keep him.
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