Nobody expected Arsenal to be at the forefront of the Premier League title odds this season, to top the table from deep into August to the tail-end of April and do so with such style and conviction. 

The significant improvement we witnessed last term was down-played over the summer, most probably due to their late collapse that revealed there was still some work to do. 

Back then, the commanding centre-back partnership of Gabriel and Saliba could only be imagined, the latter finally assimilated into the squad after a successful learning curve in France.

In midfield meanwhile, the manner in which Partey, Xhaka and Martin Odegaard have superbly synched up and bossed centre-circles all campaign long has genuinely surprised, even if each individual player was rated highly.

It was only up front where excellence was anticipated, with Bukayo Saka on the cusp of superstardom while Gabriel Jesus looked to be a shrewd purchase.

Oh, and on the left there was Gabby Martinelli, a winger blessed with trickery and pace and always full of running. 

He could be pretty decent on his day, too.

In truth, the Brazilian was an after-thought when predictions were made for the forthcoming season.

In 2021/22, he accrued 29 league appearances and posted double figures for goals and assist combined, but to many, if not most, he appeared to be a mercurial talent, too often veering from magnificent to anonymous in the blink of an eye. 

His was a back-story that greatly impressed, signing from the Brazilian fourth division for a mere £6m and arriving in London aged just 18 and barely speaking any English. 

But could, and would, Martinelli become a pivotal player in Mikel Arteta’s grand project? Or was he fated to be a peripheral presence, delighting us with his skills on sunny afternoons, only to fade from prominence when the going got tough and elite consistency was required.

The jury remained out.

Many months on and the verdict is now in and it’s unanimous. And Gabby Martinelli will never be an after-thought again. 

Still only 21 and with a development ceiling yet to be identified, the winger has been exceptional this term, tormenting full-backs and often proving to be the difference when Arsenal have been in need of a difference-maker.

How good is Gabriel Martinelli?

Only five players have scored more pure match-winners across 2022/23 and pertinently all of them play as number nines. 

From out wide, with Arsenal looking to him mainly to create and assist, Martinelli has stepped up, providing a goal-threat at critical times, in crucial moments. 

Not that his strikes have been reserved only for late in games. Last October, Liverpool went to North London and with the Gunners now viewed as genuine contenders the pre-match narrative centred on their mental fortitude. 

The Reds had so often proven to be a painful nemesis. 

Yet just sixty-five seconds in, Martinelli raced through and slotted home. Displaying once again his new-found consistency, the Brazilian then put in an influential, Man of the Match performance.

All told, his 15 goals and five assists have been priceless, while 1.7 successful dribbles per 90 and 1.7 key passes have kept his side firmly in the Premier League betting to secure a famous league crown. 

Whether Mikel Arteta’s men go on to achieve this only time will tell, a commodity that the 21-year-old has plenty of. And it’s going to be fun seeing what he makes of it, this once peripheral bundle of potential who is fast becoming a bona fide superstar.


Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.