Arsenal attacker Gabi Martinelli: We're going to Sporting Lisbon to win - I'll play goalkeeper if I have to

Gabi Martinelli is upbeat ahead of Arsenal's Europa League clash with Sporting Lisbon

Arsenal attacker Gabi Martinelli: We're going to Sporting Lisbon to win - I'll play goalkeeper if I have to

As Arsenal gear up to face Sporting Clube De Portugal in the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday evening, Layth Yousif spoke to Gabi Martinelli on behalf of the Morning Star newspaper 


Arsenal’s young Brazil attacker Gabi Martinelli is loving life at the moment, not least thanks to his excellent relationship with the club’s loyal supporters.

With Mikel Arteta’s Premier League leaders grabbing a dramatic late victory over Bournemouth on Saturday to maintain a five-point gap between them and Manchester City in second place, confidence is high as the squad travel to Portugal for their Europa League clash against Sporting Lisbon.

The bond between fans and the team was showcased by the emotional scenes after the final whistle against the Cherries as players and supporters celebrated wildly. 

Martinelli underlined that the feeling is mutual.

Speaking to the Morning Star during Wednesday evening’s pre-match press conference in the bowels of the green and white clad Estadio Jose Alvalade in a gunmetal grey Lisbon, when Martinelli was asked if he could feel the love from Gooners everywhere he replied he certainly could. “A lot. I love them and I think they love me too,” adding: “I always try to make them happy.”

There is more to the former Corinthians academy starlet than laurels that come his way in the aftermath of victory.

The young star proved his steel when leaving his homeland as a raw 17-year-old when he joined the North London giants back in the summer of 2019.

Martinelli was playing in the fourth tier of Brazilian regional football, before he was snapped up through a combination of the Gunners excellent scouting network which included former talent spotter and ex-Arsenal youth Francis Cagigao working alongside Edu to snap up the young star.

That summer four years ago, the former Ituano striker was expected to perhaps challenge for a regular spot in the U23 academy side over the coming season – yet it was clear after his first few training sessions ahead of then boss Unai Emery taking his side on a summer of the US that the talented teen was destined to challenge for a place in the first team squad.

Fast forward nearly four years and Martinelli, now a mature 21-year-old, has notched an impressive 11 goals in only 24 Premier League starts this term, to make it 29 in 119 matches in all competitions, mostly as a dynamic left-winger.

Such is his refreshing love for the club, Martinelli even insisted that he would play anywhere so long as he was in the starting XI.

Speaking in a pre-match press conference in Lisbon on Wednesday evening, Martinelli added: “If “I’m the number nine or on the wing, I always try to do my best and help the team by scoring or getting an assist. 

“It’s up to Mikel - wherever he decides to play me, I’ll play. If the team need me I’d play as a goalkeeper.

"We play for Arsenal and everyone has this responsibility.”

Yet, after going six matches without a goal in the new year, following his return from the World Cup with Brazil, fears were raised over his effectiveness ahead of a tough run-in for Arteta’s title-challenging side.

Arteta, ever the pragmatist, opted to bench Martinelli on the back of Arsenal’s late winter wobble, when the Gunners went four games without a much-needed victory. The run included two defeats at the hands of Manchester City, that saw them exit the FA Cup, prompting serious questions about the veracity of their title challenge.

However, as befitted the tenacious young Brazil star who had shown maturity beyond his years when uprooting from near Sao Paolo to London at the tender age of only 17, Martinelli refused to be downhearted at losing his coveted first team place.

Such was the intensity he trained at during his spell out of the starting XI, insiders at London Colney say Martinelli gave Arteta no option but to force his hand, and pick him again.

Reflecting on his time out of the side, he said: “I just kept working hard, I always try to do my best on and off the pitch and that’s what I did.”

The inevitable return came after he had grabbed a late fourth as a substitute during the crucial 4-2 victory at Aston Villa that kickstarted Arsenal’s season, when it had appeared to be on the verge of imploding.

The explosive Martinelli and Arsenal haven’t looked back since, with the attacker notching four in three prior to playing a vital part in Arsenal’s incredible 3-2 victory over Bournemouth at the weekend, as they made it four wins on the bounce ahead of the trip to the Portuguese capital. 

“If you play for Arsenal you need to go into any competition to win,” he added. “That’s our mentality. It’s Sporting tomorrow and we’re going there to win.

No wonder Arsenal supporters love him.




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