There has been very little enthusiasm for Arsenal fans this season.
The results were bad, the football even worse and almost every player in Mikel Arteta’s squad was considerably underperforming.
Any hope Arsenal supporters had of the drudgery decrease seemingly died down when Gabriel Jesus put Manchester City 1-0 within two minutes of Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup quarter-final.
The goal was horrible to concede and was part of the Gunners’ sad start to the campaign. A defensive mix between Runar Alex Runarsson, Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi gave Jesus a completely free header and he was right on, nodding Oleksandr Zinchenko to the back of the net.
After the goal it looked like business as usual for the Arteta team. For a good ten minutes, they generally looked uncomfortable. It was all very predictable, sterile and far too regulated.
Yet in the midst of this familiar scandal, the return of Gabriel Martinelli provided a much needed dose of hope and invention.
The Brazilian’s breakthrough in the last quarter has been one of the highlights of the Gunners’ season. Before a knee injury ruled him out for the campaign, he racked up 14 straight goals in 26 games.
It was not his beautiful statistical production that made fans’ mouths water, it was his whole approach. Still a teenager, Martinelli plays without fear and despite his long absence he has shown much of that bravery against City.
Pressing with more intensity than any Arsenal striker so far this season, he led his side’s fight in the first half and was at the center of all that was promising.
He was by no means perfect, losing possession four times in the first 45 minutes, but at least he was trying Something. That’s exactly what Arsenal need right now. Someone who didn’t have to go through their nightmarish start to the season. Someone who is not afraid to take risks and take on the opposition.
The highlight of Martinelli’s eye-catching display was providing Alexandre Lacazette’s equalizer assist at the half hour. Not giving up on his first heavy contact, the speedster raced to the start line and produced a sumptuous loop crossing that Lacazette brought home with power.
Of course, however, Arsenal fans are apparently not allowed to have nice things this season and soon after setting up their equalizer he received a tall order from City stopper Zack Steffen. . Sliding to sweep a ball deep, Steffen caught Martinelli on the toe.
Although he passed fit to continue at the break, he only lasted a few and a half seconds before limping and being replaced by Nicolas Pepe. And came this Runarsson error that gave City the confidence to put the game to bed.
Arteta will go through it all, hoping Martinelli’s absence will be short-lived. A player of his bravery and talent is exactly what Arsenal need to get them out of the doldrums.