Rio Ferdinand has revealed his huge admiration for an Arsenal teenager whose maturity at this stage of his career he described as “mad”.
The Spaniard has set about making Arsenal a more robust defensive unit. The summer acquisitions of Gabriel Magalhaes and midfield general Thomas Partey – who Roy Keane recently marvelled at live – have aided his cause.
But uncharacteristically for Arsenal, their potency in front of goal has been sorely lacking in recent matches.
Talismanic forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has just two league goals to his name. Furthermore, Arsenal’s last three league defeats all came without troubling the scoresheet.
One player who could remedy their lack of cutting edge up front is Gabriel Martinelli.
The 19-year-old Brazilian is currently sidelined having undergone knee surgery in June.
The Man Utd legend said of Martinelli: “To be 18-years-old, doing what he’s doing; the goal against Chelsea alone, he runs from the edge of his box – a set-piece against his team – he takes it to the other end.
“Normally, your legs are gone by then, you’ve got no energy and no juice in your legs. But he has the composure to slot it.
“Great player. But the awareness of the way he plays, the way he moves on the pitch, the intelligence to receive the ball, the positions he takes up.”
Maturity levels are “mad”
Another Gunners starlet has caught the eye in recent times – Bukayo Saka.
Saka’s rise has been recognised to the tune of two senior England caps in 2020, and Ferdinand believes both he and Martinelli have the potential to form a deadly partnership.
He added: “He (Martinelli) comes inside at the right time to allow Saka to have space on the outside and ask the opposing full-backs the questions; ‘Are you gonna come inside with me, or are you gonna stay with Saka?’.
“It’s mad. He’s a mature player for such a young kid.”