While Gelson Martins doesn’t start every game due to the heavy competition for places in attacking areas and AS Monaco’s relentless schedule, there’s no doubting what an important member of the squad he is. 

Already featuring 27 times for Les Monegasques this campaign (20 starts and seven substitute appearances), Martins has clearly been a trusted man within Niko Kovac’s system even though he hasn’t consistently been on peak form.

Offering something different to Monaco’s other offensive options and always a handful for defenders, his excellent performance against Metz in Monaco’s 4-0 win was a perfect encapsulation of why he’s such an asset. 

Starting on the left wing in this one, the 26-year-old was a standout in the crushing victory, with his movement, understanding with his teammates and dynamism on the ball wreaking havoc throughout. 

To start with his movement, this provided him with an ideal platform to stamp his mark on the game. His rotations with Kevin Volland were a key highlight, for their persistent switches of positions caused dilemmas for Metz in regard to who to mark who. Dovetailing exceptionally to not only allow each other to receive freely but also to manipulate Metz’s stopping structure, the away team found them so difficult to contain. 

Forever drawing, pinning and stretching opponents to disrupt their opponents’ organisation with their rotations and smart positioning, in combination with how they’d execute opposite movements, ensured they constantly found joy.

Be it opening up gaps in behind or in the channel or freeing up space between the lines, the Martins-Volland axis was a huge weapon for Monaco.

Dropping deep as Volland pins two markers
Smart decoy run to make room for Volland’s run

It was fitting that Martins’ goal arose from a shrewd interchange between the pair that allowed the Portuguese international to attack central spaces before applying his finish.

Beautiful run and goal following a nifty rotation with Volland

Much upside could also be extracted from how he embarked on some clever blindside runs into the box, targeted runs down the channel when an opposition defender stepped out, forced some dangerous 2v1 against his direct opponent with the help of fullback Ismail Jakobs and how he cleverly found room to be an option inside the area. Indeed, his swift burst forward played a part in Monaco’s opener even if he didn’t directly contribute to it.

Cleverly timed run in behind
Excellent run down the channel as the wingback steps out
Helping form a 2v1 on his man with Jakobs so he can exploit the channel
Smart back post blindside run while forming a 2v1
Wonderfully timed blindside run in behind
Smart movement into the box to find space to shoot

It was also notable how when he stayed wide that he served as a valuable outlet for switches of play so he could be isolated against his marker, which not only allowed him to use his dribbling wizardry but also make room for his fullback to underlap.

Relishing every chance to get on the ball and make things happen with his dribbling skills, Martins was a menace for Metz here too. So electric with his speed and able to change direction rapidly, this, in alliance with his sharp feints, shimmies, shoulder drops and stop gos, saw him make plenty of headway.

Possessing a clean first touch and tight control, this helped him weave away from danger, protect the ball, draw players and generally be resistant to incoming pressure. Whether drawing one or more players, gaining territory quickly or outfoxing adversaries, the former Atletico Madrid man certainly shone with his class here.

Meanwhile, when it came to his passing, he was able to construct some very promising sequences for the home side. While he engaged in some crisp interplay in close quarters and played some nice passes into the feet of his fellow attackers, his measured through balls were the most prominent aspect of his distribution. 

Assessing his options coherently before obliging runners with some perfectly weighted ground and aerial balls, this was a vital part of his display. The graphics below underline two of his best pieces of work, with the first being a sublimely lofted through ball over the top and the second an incisive ground pass into the area. 

Brilliantly weighted through ball over the top
Classy through ball in behind after a driving run

By the numbers, his four touches inside the box, three shots, three successful dribbles, one shot assist and the fact he completed 29 of his 32 attempted passes further demonstrated what a fine game he had.

Martins’ Heat Map

Now moving onto four goals and two assists for the season, it’s been positive to see him elevate his form in recent times. With a busy and challenging schedule on the horizon for Monaco, which includes crunch matches against Paris Saint-Germain and high flying Rennes, having a player with his skill set will be so valuable.

Capable of turning a game in an instant with a moment of magic, the unpredictable and gifted Martins gives Monaco that vital X Factor going forward when he’s on song – just as he did vs. Metz.