How Arsenal players performed in the Copa America group stages

How Arsenal players performed in the Copa America group stages

Brazil wrapped up their 2024 Copa America group stage campaign with a controversial 1-1 draw against Group D winners Colombia.

The Selecao face a strong test against Uruguay in the quarter-final, but they’ll fancy their chances of besting La Celeste, who progressed to the knockout phase with a perfect group stage record.

For Arsenal fans, seeing their prominent stars compete on the international stage is undoubtedly a source of immense pride but they’d also be concerned about their lack of opportunities.

Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Magalhaes have barely kicked a ball for Dorival Junior’s side, playing a combined 11 minutes of Copa America football thus far.

While Arsenal fans would be hoping their stars will get more playing time in the knockouts, here’s a closer look at how the Gunners duo fared in their limited Copa America cameos.

For fans who missed the group stage action, Copa America tickets are still available at seatsnet.com, with the quarter-finals on the horizon.

Gabriel Magalhaes 

Gabriel only played four minutes of Copa America football in the group stage, coming on for Real Madrid’s Eder Militao as Brazil thrashed Paraguay 4-1 at the Allegiant Stadium.

Brazil manager Junior has handed Militao and Marquinhos the keys to the heart of the defence, leaving Gabriel on the sidelines.

The 26-year-old was an unused substitute in the games against Costa Rica and Colombia, watching from the bench as Brazil finished the opening phase as Group D runners-up with five points.

Gabriel’s cameo against Paraguay earned him his seventh international cap for the Brazilian national team. He marked it with five touches and completed four of his five passes.

Gabriel Martinelli

Much like his Arsenal cohort, Martinelli was also strapped to the bench for much of Brazil’s group stage campaign, getting only seven minutes of action under his belt.

He replaced Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Joao Gomes in the dying embers of the goalless curtain raiser against Costa Rica and failed to make an appearance in the subsequent two games.

With Real Madrid superstars Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo establishing themselves as crucial components of the Selecao side, Martinelli has struggled to assert himself in the team.

He touched the ball 12 times and had an 83% pass accuracy during his seven-minute cameo against Costa Rica.

Why Gabriel should be at the heart of Brazil’s defence 

Brazil haven’t exactly lit up the Copa America in the way many would have expected, but that’s not down to their defensive display.

Thus far, Junior’s men have run a tight ship at the back, conceding just two goals in the group stage, displaying a solidity that was sorely missing during the build-up to the tournament.

The central defensive partnership of Militao and Marquinhos has been a key factor in Brazil’s newfound defensive resolve.

It’s a testament to Militao’s resilience that he’s seamlessly slotted back in after a lengthy injury lay-off, establishing a formidable partnership with the experienced Marquinhos.

However, many believe Junior took a huge gamble with the Madrid ace and should have opted for Gabriel, who would have been the ideal partner for Marquinhos, especially after a stellar campaign with Arsenal.

Gabriel’s defensive credentials are bordering on world-class. He’s renowned for his aerial dominance, but he is also a force to be reckoned with in 1v1 battles, winning a whopping 66% of his ground duels in the Premier League last term.

In addition to being a defensive juggernaut, Gabriel would have also been a valuable attacking weapon for Brazil.

His ability to win headers in the box could have provided a dangerous outlet on set pieces and crosses, potentially handing Brazil an ace up their attacking sleeves.

While Militao and Marquinhos have undoubtedly impressed, it’s fair to say Gabriel’s inclusion could have elevated Brazil’s defensive solidity and attacking options to an even higher level.

Time for Junior to take a chance on Martinelli?

Brazil’s famed attacking flair has been curiously absent at the Copa America thus far.

Besides putting four past Costa Rica in the second game, the Samba boys have failed to live up to expectations in the final third, and Junior could benefit from rolling the dice heading into the quarter-finals.

Vinicius picked up a yellow card in the 1-1 draw against Colombia and will miss the crucial showdown against Uruguay due to a suspension, which will be a massive blow for Junior and Brazil.

He has been a focal point of the attack, and his absence creates a gaping hole, handing Junior a huge selection headache ahead of the quarter-final.

However, with the Madrid star out of the picture, Junior finally has a licence to unleash Martinelli from the get-go, with the Arsenal star chomping at the bit for a chance to prove himself in a Selecao shirt.

Having scored eight goals and provided five assists for Arsenal last season, Martinelli has proven himself to be a reliable goalscoring threat.

Junior has been hesitant to throw Martinelli into the deep end, but with Brazil needing a new talisman to lead the line, the 23-year-old offers a fresh dimension to the attack.

Martinelli brings a different flavour to the attack compared to the likes of Rodrygo and Raphinha. He’s a direct threat with the ball at his feet, capable of turning defenders inside out and causing havoc in the box.

With his electrifying pace, dribbling skills, and a nose for goal, he could be the vital cog that sparks them into life in the final third.

Gabriel Jesus

Arsenal’s Brazilian contingent was a man short at the Copa America this summer, with Gabriel Jesus omitted from the squad.

Injuries and a struggle for form last season saw Jesus miss out on the trip to the United States.

Despite managing eight goals and eight assists across all competitions, Jesus failed to recapture his earlier magic at the Emirates Stadium.

Nagging injuries further hampered his progress, leaving him unable to regain peak fitness in time to secure a Copa America berth.

Jesus’ recurring injury problems have also forced Arsenal to enter the summer transfer window with a prolific striker firmly at the top of their shopping list.

The Gunners initially set their sights on Slovenian talent Benjamin Sesko, but their hopes quickly fizzled out when the highly rated marksman put pen to paper on an extended contract with RB Leipzig.

The search for a new striker has seen Arsenal linked with a number of attacking options, including Napoli hitman Victor Osimhen, Sporting CP’s Swedish phenom Viktor Gyokeres, Bologna starlet Joshua Zirkzee, and Brentford talisman Ivan Toney.

While Arsenal’s search for a new striker might have cooled down in recent weeks, it is one to look forward to as the 2024/25 season draws closer.

For now, the focus shifts to Brazil’s mouth-watering quarter-final showdown against Uruguay. Arsenal fans could still have a reason to cheer, with the Gunners duo likely to play a key role in their nation’s quest for continental glory.

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