Alan Smith praises Arsenal’s ‘natural-born goalscorer’ Gabriel Martinelli

Former Arsenal star Alan Smith has praised the performance of Gabriel Martinelli following the Gunners’ 4-0 triumph over Standard Liege in the Europa League group stage. The Brazilian youngster was the Gunners’ first signing of the summer transfer window for around £6m from Ituano and he has made a huge impression with four goals and an assist from just two appearances.

In a report covered by Evening Standard, Smith praised the clever movement of Martinelli against Liege and said that the 18-year-old has the instincts of a natural goalscorer, he penned: “We hear he is better suited long term to a role on the wing, the position where he made his name at Ituano in Brazil. But his clever movement here suggested otherwise. The near-post dash across his marker to glance home a marvellous header. The skilful shimmy and shot to curl in the second. These aren’t the hallmarks of a winger filling in. They point to a front man with natural goalscoring instincts.”

Despite Martinelli’s man of the match performance, his prospects of leading the line in the Premier League appear slim with the mesmerising form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang while Alexandre Lacazette is close to making a comeback from an ankle problem. However, there remains the possibility of playing him from a wider attacking role and that could put the pressure on Nicolas Pepe to step up with his performances.

Pepe has simply failed to impress since the club-record move from Lille during the summer and a section of the fans have already urged manager Unai Emery to play both Bukayo Saka and Martinelli from the starting XI in the Premier League. That remains a gamble with the evident lack of experience but Saka has already shown that he can excel at the top-flight level after contributing an assist during the club’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United on Monday night. He could have scored the winning goal with some better composure in the box.