Footballbible on Facebook and Twitter get up to date football-related news from the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and other leagues around the World. News from Chelsea, Everton, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.
At the time of Gabriel Martinelli’s arrival at Arsenal the fanfare that greeted him was viewed by some at the club as somewhat disproportionate to what could be reasonably expected of the youngster.
When the 18-year-old arrived at the club the matter of when and where he would make his debut focused on games at Borehamwood, Hitchin Town or Barnet. There were great hopes for Martinelli but expectations were being kept in check.
After all he had not even been picked up from the top tier of Brazilian football but from state football in Sao Paulo with Ituano; games against the top tier teams in the country were relatively few and far between for Martinelli in his 34 career games so far.
This was not just a minor step up for the teenager, as he himself relayed in an interview with FourFourTwo. “There were some pre-season assessments at the gym. All the players were there: [Mesut] Ozil, [Alexandre] Lacazette, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang… but I couldn’t speak a word of English.
“‘Oh my god’ was my initial reaction.”
Looking back now it is remarkable to think that this shy youngster off the pitch could so swiftly become the terror of defences on it. On the glowing recommendation of head of international scouting Francis Cagigao, the man who unearthed Hector Bellerin and Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal were convinced they had found a star for the future but an immediate impact was not what they paid Ituano £8million for.
Instead the plan for the 2019/20 season had been that Martinelli feature predominantly for the Under-23s, at least early in the campaign. The cup competitions and potentially the Europa League would give Unai Emery opportunities to blood the Brazilian but it was a time for slow steps.
As early as the club’s pre-season tour of United States there were indications that such an approach simply wouldn’t do. Having terrorised Colorado Rapids in the opening game he made a thrilling impact off the bench against Fiorentina Emery was, by his own standards at least, glowing in his praise and willing to offer rare assurances that further minutes would come.
There was not much Emery did to deserve credit in his disastrous second season in north London but his commitment to Martinelli was impressive. Early in the season he would look to hand him what minutes he could in Premier League games with the bulk of his chances coming in the Europa League and EFL Cup.
It is hard to overstate how effectively Martinelli took those chances, with seven goals in his first four starts. That he has proven it is no flash in the pan with steadily improving performances in the Premier League is a measure of the composure that he has shown on and off the pitch.
In that David Luiz has guided him, serving as a mentor for his young compatriot and even going so far as to meet Martinelli’s parents to help them settle into the new life that his move to Arsenal has thrust upon them.
Luiz does not hesitate when it comes to celebrating the qualities of Martinelli, describing the youngster as “something different” even from the outstanding prospects he has seen at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and with the Brazilian national team.
“If he keeps it up, he will experience great things in football,” Luiz insists.
Indeed the challenge for Arsenal and Martinelli, with 10 goals and four assists to his name, is altogether different now. Rather than slowly building momentum it is now up to Mikel Arteta and the rest of the club hierarchy to keep expectations in check.
In the days before the FA Cup win over Portsmouth Arteta even found himself having to explain why Martinelli’s game time had dropped off in the previous fixtures. His rather succinct answer? “Auba was suspended for three games.”
Meanwhile away from matters on the pitch there is already a low murmur linking Martinelli with Real Madrid though it is one he himself is doing plenty to quieten with comments about his desire to be an Arsenal legend and “to win the Champions League and lots of domestic titles”.
Perhaps nothing else Martinelli could say better typifies his rise to prominence than that. Exactly one year ago today he was preparing for his final match in an Ituano shirt, the quarter-finals of the Sao Paulo state championship. Now he is proclaiming his belief that he can be a part of an Arsenal side that wins the biggest prizes in football.
If he continues on his current trajectory then it might even be possible.