DANIEL MATTHEWS: Thrilling Gabriel Martinelli proved to be Arsenal’s pivotal threat again by accounting for one goal, one assist and two Liverpool right backs
- Gabriel Martinelli put Arsenal ahead after just 58 seconds against Liverpool
- The forward set up Bukayo Saka for Arsenal’s second goal just before half-time
- Defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez were ran ragged by Martinelli
- Saka sealed a thrilling 3-2 victory by scoring from the spot in the 76th minute
In the hours before this battle, there seemed only one decision for Mikel Arteta to ponder. It came at left back: Oleksandr Zinchenko or Kieran Tierney?
It was a choice that would signal everything about Arsenal’s intent: after all of the progress and positive signs, would they stick or twist?
Tierney could offer more defensive solidity against Mohamed Salah, Zinchenko provides more control and attacking threat.
Arsenal got off to a perfect start when Gabriel Martinelli put them ahead after 58 seconds
In the end, Zinchenko was injured but Arteta still sprung a surprise: he plumped for Takehiro Tomiyasu. In the end, it made little difference.
Instead, Arsenal’s hopes soon hinged on events further up their left flank. No such selection dilemmas there.
Gabriel Martinelli has started every one of Arsenal’s matches this season. The 21-year-old is now undeniably one of their most significant players.
Certainly here, as against Tottenham, he proved Arteta’s most pivotal threat.
By the end of another exhilarating display of skill and pace and intelligent movement behind a discombobulated back four, Martinelli had accounted for one goal, one assist and two right backs.
Liverpool defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez were ran ragged by Martinelli
Trent Alexander-Arnold came off at half-time after a torrid 45 minutes that began, and ended, with Martinelli proving Liverpool’s undoing.
At the final whistle, his replacement Joe Gomez was similarly dizzied and drained.
This match was won, in the end, by Bukayo Saka. No one has received more credit for Arsenal’s flying start, meanwhile, than Gabriel Jesus.
There can be little doubt that Jesus has transformed Arsenal’s attack. Or that Martinelli has benefitted from his arrival.
But the 21-year-old has the quality to wreak havoc all by himself. Just ask Liverpool.
Bukayo Saka sealed a thrilling 3-2 victory by scoring from the spot in the 76th minute
The visitors can’t say they weren’t warned: three years have passed since Jurgen Klopp suggested Martinelli could prove a ‘talent of the century’.
Before this match, the Liverpool boss confirmed: ‘He’s become exactly the player I expected.’
And yet it took just 58 seconds for Martinelli to draw first blood, racing in behind Alexander-Arnold to put Arsenal in front.
Later, during first-half injury time, the Brazilian drove towards the Liverpool box, sold both Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson with a delicious dummy, and squared for Saka to finish.
In the intervening 45 minutes, as Liverpool strangled Arsenal, his threat on the counter proved invaluable: even as Arsenal struggled for possession, Martinelli managed 26 touches, more than all but two team-mates (both defenders). After the break, little changed: twice he almost created another goal, once he outmuscled Joel Matip to feed Martin Odegaard.
Not that Klopp would have been surprised.