Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has offered another glowing verdict on Arsenal winger Gabriel Martinelli ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash.
Klopp has shown a particular penchant for turning relatively unknown winger talents into standout players at Anfield. Sadio Mane was a top buy from Southampton, while Mohamed Salah has proved his doubters wrong.
Diogo Jota has turned out to be a smart buy from Wolves, with Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez now settling in at Anfield.
One player Klopp does not have in his team – but who he has followed intensely in recent seasons – is Arsenal’s Brazilian star Martinelli.
Indeed, Klopp hailed the 21-year-old after Liverpool beat Arsenal in last season’s EFL Cup semi-finals. He said in January: “Little Martinelli, we will talk about this player in the future, I can promise.”
And speaking on Friday, Klopp once again hailed the winger for playing a major part in Arsenal’s recent rise under Mikel Arteta.
“[Arsenal get] all my respect, wow, it’s a really good job,” the manager said. “When you need some time, nobody wants to give you time and maybe not all of us deserve time.
“We still have to be good to use the time, which we obviously did. I have to say, I have lots of respect for it.
“They had a lot of talent already in the last few years. Martinelli, I was excited about him from very early on, he became exactly the player I expected he would be.”
Klopp referenced once again his conversation with Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard when he was 15 years old, before he signed for Real Madrid.
And the Reds boss also praised Arteta for the signings of Gabriel Jesus and Thomas Partey and for the resurgence of Granit Xhaka.
Klopp wants Liverpool duo to shine
As for Liverpool’s chances against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the upcoming Premier League clash, Darwin Nunez and Roberto Firmino could both be key.
Nunez has yet to score since his debut goal away at Fulham, but he had several chances against Rangers in Tuesday’s Champions League clash.
Firmino, meanwhile, has five goals and three assists in six Premier League appearances this term. That is one assist shy of his entire 2021/22 league record.
Klopp said of 31-year-old Firmino: “The goals he scored against Brighton were absolutely outstanding, but for the game at the weekend we thought it made sense to play like this.
“We play a lot of games since then and Bobby is an incredibly important player for us and especially when he’s scoring. I’m happy with his goalscoring record so far and hopefully he can score a few more.”
On Nunez, Klopp said of his plethora of chances against Rangers: “It was down to his movement and down to the movement of the boys around him.
“One of the things he showed so far in all the games he played was that he brings himself quite frequently in finishing positions, which is actually the most important thing for a striker.
“That’s why everybody could be very optimistic about what’s coming from him in the future.”
Reds have exciting attacking options
Firmino’s form is definitely a boost not many expected for Liverpool this season.
He has fallen down the pecking order in recent seasons and his form has caused that drop-off. While he had produced standout moments in recent seasons, he had not done enough to warrant a regular starting role.
And the addition of Nunez to Liverpool’s attack was a worrying sign for Firmino’s future.
However, he definitely does now warrant a starting role against Arsenal because of his recent record in front of goal. His good record against the Gunners will add to the calls for him to start ahead of Nunez.
This is likely Firmino’s last season at Anfield before he leaves as a free agent.
If he can bow out with impressive goals and assist tallies, he will be remembered even more fondly than he is currently set to be by fans.