Arsenal face Premier League rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Thursday… offering Gabriel Martinelli the chance to play against his “idol” Cristiano Ronaldo
The Brazilian, 20, was lauded after the team’s 2-0 victory against Newcastle last time out, scoring a stunner at the Emirates.
Martinelli hit the ball on the volley – over his shoulder – to lob helpless goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and double Arsenal’s lead.
It was a moment that confirmed the youngster’s natural flare and ability, leaving supporters excited for the future.
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Iconic striker Ian Wright added: “That’s very difficult when it’s coming over your right shoulder.”
Despite showing a lot of potential, Martinelli has made just two Premier League starts under Arteta this season.
The Spaniard is blessed with plenty of attacking options, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka.
He’s also plays with caution, with Arsenal scoring just 15 Premier League goals this term – the same amount as winless Newcastle (after 13 games)
It was a similar story last season, as the Gunners found the back of the net 55 times in the league – seven less than promoted Leeds.
Arteta seems determined to reintroduce the famous “1-0 to the Arsenal” chant, leaving Martinelli with few opportunities to impress.
His manager, however, appreciates his attitude. “Some players are very respectful, like he is,” said Arteta after the Newcastle game.
“He’s patient, but at the same time he’s really pushing and challenging and it makes every decision that you make even harder because he deserve more.”
Martinelli could play fewer than 25 Premier League games this term as he continues to blossom, but he’ll be desperate for an outing on Thursday.
Victory would give the Gunners a huge boost in their pursuit of Champions League football and severely hamper United’s hopes.
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The Red Devils are struggling – winning just one of their last eight Premier League games – but are (almost) under new management.
Ralf Rangnick has agreed to become their interim boss under the end of the season, giving the team a new manager bounce.
The fixture also offers Martinelli the chance to play against Cristiano Ronaldo, a man he described as his “idol” in 2020.
Both players could miss out on selection, with United caretaker boss Michael Carrick dropping Ronaldo for their previous game against Chelsea.
“My idol is Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Martinelli, as quoted by football.london.
“I admire him very much for the strength of will he has, for the way he works and for everything… for the individual and collective awards he earns.
“He is a guy who does not conform, always wants more. That is what I want for myself: to always be conquering things. He is an example.”
Martinelli still has a long way to go before he can join Ronaldo in the pantheon of greats, but a strong display on Thursday will be a step in the right direction.
The youngster has the potential to become a Premier League star. Whether he’ll get an opportunity to show his idol his talents, though, is down to Arteta.