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There has been sadly little to get excited about for Arsenal fans this season.
The results have been poor, the football even worse and almost all the players in Mikel Arteta’s team have underperformed dramatically.
Any hope Arsenal fans had that the monotony would fade was seemingly extinguished when Gabriel Jesus put Manchester City up 1-0 within two minutes of Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
The goal was terrible to concede and was in keeping with the Gunners’ sorry start to the season. A defensive confusion between Runar Alex Runarsson, Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi allowed Jesús a completely free header and he made no mistake, nodding a cross from Oleksandr Zinchenko to the back of the net.
After the goal was gone, it felt like a regular thing for Arteta’s team. For a good 10 minutes or so, they looked typically boring in the future. Everything was very predictable, sterile, and overly regulated.
Yet amid this familiar dirge, the return of Gabriel Martinelli provided a much-needed dose of hope and invention.
The Brazilian’s advancement last season was one of the highlights of the Gunners season. Before a knee injury ruled him out for the season, he had 14 direct goals in 26 games.
However, it wasn’t his excellent statistical production that made fans salivate, it was his entire focus. Still a teenager, Martinelli plays fearlessly and, despite his long absence, showed much of this bravery against City.
Pushing harder than any Arsenal striker so far this season, he led the first half of his team’s fight and was at the center of all that was promising.
It wasn’t perfect by any means, he lost possession four times in the first 45 minutes, but at least he was trying something. This is exactly what Arsenal need right now. Someone who has not had to live his nightmare at the start of the season. Someone who is not afraid to take risks and mess with the opposition.
The highlight of Martinelli’s eye-catching display was providing the assist for Alexandre Lacazette’s draw at the half hour mark. Without giving up his heavy first touch, the sprinter ran to the author line and produced a sumptuous looping crossover that Lacazette headed home in force.
However, of course, Arsenal fans apparently can’t have good things this season and shortly after setting the tie, he received a huge challenge from City stopper Zack Steffen. Steffen slid to sweep a ball and caught Martinelli on the toe.
Although he would be fit to continue at halftime, he lasted only a few minutes into the second half before limping and being replaced by Nicolas Pepe. Then came that Runarsson’s mistake that gave City the confidence to put the game to bed.
Arteta will go through everything, hoping that Martinelli’s absence will be short. A player of his bravery and talent is exactly what Arsenal need to bring them out of the deadlock.