Unlike last season, Arsenal are not sitting top of the Premier League table by late November. However, Mikel Arteta’s men are still just one point behind the golden spot this term, with two-thirds of the season left to play.
Arteta looked to strengthen his midfield department during the summer to avoid last season’s collapse once more, bringing Declan Rice and Kai Havertz to the club for a combined total of £170m, but arguably the weakest component of the Gunners’ side is the number ‘nine’ position.
Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah have led the line this season, but neither has been a prolific goalscorer throughout their respective careers. Nevertheless, there is still one more option that Arteta could try before the January transfer window opens to save some money.
Arsenal’s centre-forward option
Having picked up a devastating knee injury at the World Cup last season, Jesus spent a number of months sidelined. It was suggested by journalist Dean Jones that Gabriel Martinelli should get the nod to play down the middle, having had a fantastic campaign off the left. The Brazilian has played up top 16 times before in his professional career and scored nine goals in all competitions.
Last season, Martinelli proved to Arteta that he is one of Arsenal’s major goal threats, having scored 16 goals in 36 Premier League appearances, leading journalist Mark Mann-Bryans to label the winger as a “monster” for some of his displays in a red and white shirt. Martinelli was also handed a new deal for his excellent performances worth £180k-per-week.
Nevertheless, with Jesus still absent with an injury and Nketiah recovering from a slight knock, Arteta opted to deploy Leandro Trossard as Arsenal’s striker against Burnley and Sevilla and the Belgian scored against the former. The Spanish coach also has Havertz as an option to play as a false ‘nine’ but the German featured at left-back on Saturday night for his national team in a 3-2 defeat at home to Turkey, scoring within five minutes, and may have found a new role for himself in the process.
Regardless, Trossard and Havertz don’t possess the natural goalscoring instinct that Martinelli does, as the duo have bagged just eight goals in total since joining the club.
Gabriel Martinelli’s stats this season
Jesus has scored four goals this season for Arsenal while Nketiah has registered one more than his Brazilian counterpart. The pair are being outscored by Trossard who has found the net six times and is the Gunners’ joint-top scorer in the current campaign alongside Bukayo Saka. Despite being out-and-out centre-forwards, neither Jesus nor Nketiah have proven themselves to be consistent goalscorers under Arteta.
Meanwhile, Martinelli has turned into one of Europe’s great wingers. Statistically, the 22-year-old stands out from the crowd when compared to all wide players from Europe’s top-five leagues. Martinelli is in the top 9% for non-penalty goals per 90 and the top 11% for non-penalty expected goals per 90. Additionally, the Arsenal star ranks in the top 2% for touches in the opposition’s penalty area per 90 as well as the top 5% for progressive passes received per 90.
According to FBref’s player comparison model, Martinelli’s data is most comparable to Vinicius Jr., Saka, Raheem Sterling, and even Mohamed Salah. Arsenal’s number eleven may not reach Erling Haaland-numbers for goals but is currently outperforming Jesus and Nketiah on a host of key attacking metrics this season and should be given an opportunity by Arteta to showcase his talents up top.
|Per 90 Metrics||Gabriel Martinelli||Gabriel Jesus||Eddie Nketiah|
|Goals per shot||0.06||0.1||0.2|
|Shots on target||1||0.74||0.82|
|Touches in opposition’s box||7.88||6||6|
|Progressive passes received||15.1||6.75||5.29|
|Stats via FBref|
Martinelli is scoring at a lesser rate than Jesus and Nketiah because it’s difficult to have quality chances when cutting in from the left due to the angle of the shot. However, the Brazilian is creating more opportunities and isn’t lagging too far behind on goalscoring metrics.
With that in mind, Arteta should give Martinelli a shot up top to showcase what he can do in the absence of Jesus.