A youthful Arsenal side made light work of Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night at The Emirates, as a series of exciting performances from the youngsters again raised excitement levels amongst the Arsenal fanbase.
At the heart of the plaudits was Gabriel Martinelli. The Brazilian teenager turned 18 in June and is already making an impact for the Arsenal first team. That in itself is some achievement.
But what may have been the most exciting part is the fact he performed so well as a lone striker. Martinelli can quite easily be criticised for his lack of physicality, something that will improve with age I am sure. This lack of strength means many expected him to be utilised as a wide player until he develops further.
However with Lacazette injured, Nketiah on loan and Aubameyang not able to play every single fixture, Martinelli will be needed in that central striker role this season. On Tuesday night, he highlighted how he can be effective through the middle, as a lone striker, even at such a young age.
His first Arsenal goal came from a penetrative run which saw him beat the Forest defensive pairing to Chambers cross, thumping home an accurate header. His attacking instinct was there for all to see with that finish, as was his pace and determination.
Standing at 6ft tall, it’s easy to forget Martinelli has a presence in the air and I am sure that will not be the last header he scores.
Throughout the rest of the game Gabriel was lively, keen to impress, energetic and frequently trying to be the spark that unlocked Forest.
A criticism will be he sometimes ignored some better options in attacking areas, failing to get his head up and instead trying to do too much himself. I am sure this will improve as he matures and gets to know his teammates and his surroundings.
It was also evident that the youngster lacked muscle in his legs as he attempted some longer range shots, which lacked venom and purpose.
For such a young player who has come from Brazil, Martinelli is showing great qualities and ability at the early stage of his Arsenal career. Arsenal fans must limit their expectations at this stage, Martinelli will have some great moments but also many poor performances as he learns his trade.
Like Nketiah, Martinelli has the chance to become Arsenal’s next long term striker. Whilst Lacazette and Aubameyang are centre stage right now, both are approaching 30 and the conclusion of their current contracts. For now, the young duo can learn from the very best and perhaps in a few years they will be the next Auba and Laca.
Now, with another Europa League tie ahead on Thursday, Martinelli will view this competition as a real chance for him to make a serious impact in the first team this season.