After two games played, Arsenal sit three points clear at the top of Group F. In their most recent Europa League game, the North London side faced Standard Liège, in what seemed to be a taster game for many of the younger players in the squad. Unai Emery started with the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock, all of whom are under 21-years-old. Although each player played their part in the 4-0 victory, there was one man who stood out on the night – Martinelli. The Brazilian was the youngest player on the pitch at 18 but stepped up to the plate. In fact, he danced on it, did a backflip and smashed it all inside 90 minutes.
The forward signed for the Gunners during the summer, from Brazilian Serie D side Ituano, and already has two starts for the club; one in the Carabao Cup, the other in the Europa League.
During the third round of the Carabao Cup, Martinelli was listed as the starting forward – his first opportunity. As he was the youngest player on the pitch, it is fair to say fans were a little sceptical – even if the game was against Nottingham Forest. Martinelli put all of those doubts to rest, as he headed home a goal in the 31st minute, putting Arsenal on the scoresheet and 1-0 up at half-time.
Another three goals were put in the back of the net from Rob Holding, Nelson and Willock which began a wave that Martinelli rode to put away the fifth and final goal of the game. There’s a lot to be said for an 18-year-old who can travel across the world to play in an entirely new league and score two goals in his first 90-minute game. Emery seemed to think so too, because less than two weeks later, he started again, this time on the European stage.
The Europa League group stages often become a great opportunity for many young players. For managers, it is a great chance to play a less experienced team and let youngsters show off their skill – an opportunity that Martinelli has grabbed with both hands. In just 13 minutes, Martinelli managed to head home his first goal of the night. After spectacularly holding-out on the defender’s blindside, he came back around to steal the ball at the last second from Kieran Tierney’s lofty cross, but the Brazilian didn’t stop there.
Just three minute later, Martinelli took advantage of another opportunity. Yet again involved in the build-up play and making the most from a cross-in ball, Martinelli managed to swiftly steer around a couple of defenders and put the ball in the back of the net.
The Brazilian began his career playing a lot of futsal, which is why he is so talented when it comes to playing under pressure and in tight spaces – give him enough room and he’ll be sure to make some magic.
From two magnificent appearances, it seems as if Martinelli is pushing for a permanent place in the starting line-up. Let’s face it, if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stops performing at the level he is this season, he might find Martinelli’s name replacing his on the team sheet. Keep an eye out for the teenager in future games. We’re sure the odds on Europa League betting with Paddy Power will certainly have him as a favourite for a few goals.