We’ve got a lot to cheer about this season.
Right up there is the unified fanbase in the stands and on social media. Most of us can see the progress Mikel Arteta has made with the team and we are excited to see how far we can go.
On the pitch, Arsenal are thriving. The players are fully behind the approach and the tactics are largely working. The past seasons have seen us recruit heavily and the squad is looking healthy and our first eleven? It is creative, it is fluid and above all, they are standing up to the sides who attempt to use physicality as a way to stifle us.
Gabriel Magalhaes is a big part of that. The Brazilian was a revelation in his first season at the club, a titan who gave us a thread of steel in what was sometimes a soft underbelly. He was a bastion that we could tie others to, in order to begin that team build.
William Saliba may be grabbing the plaudits this season, like Gabriel did last season. And some obvious errors have led to some quarters of our support questioning Gabriel’s place in the side.
But this process has no room for being fickle. And we must have awfully short memories if we are forgetting the brilliance Gabriel brings to the team.
Let’s go a bit deeper shall we? Let’s compare Gabriel’s supposedly shaky season thus far (written on 06/10) against defenders who are said to be the best of the best in the Premier League.
Let’s put to bed the comments laying doubt on Gabriel.
When compared to Ruben Dias of Man City, here’s the tale of the tape:
More blocks, successful tackles and clearances. Only one clear error leading to a conceded goal. (Stats taken from official PL site.)
Some might say this is unfair as the focus on City defending will be a lot less than Arsenal. So of course, Gabriel’s numbers are inflated.
But Dias earned more interceptions than Gabriel, so the amount of play taking place in City’s final third must be similar, to earn those interceptions.
There’s more too. Gabriel isn’t just a no-nonsense defender, hoofing it away from danger. While his reflexes are sharp and he can outmuscle most threats, his play out from the back is a big reason why our interchanges are so swift.
While Dias leads the way in all stats, Gabriel has similar numbers in pass completion percentages and crucially, amount of touches. We rely on him to bring the ball out calmly. He’s intrinsic to our play.
Ben White is another candidate who could easily play the part of a ball-playing central defender, but his adaptability has seen him cover the right side of defence with aplomb.
Besides, Gabriel is still doing a fine job. The Brazilian may well be making a mistake or two, but now that Arteta has his side playing the way he wants them to, it makes sense there is more onus on Gabriel to take possession.
In terms of defending, he’s still doing what he did in his imperious first season.
We should thank our lucky stars we have him, as well as White and Saliba. They comprise the strongest defence we’ve had in quite some time.
Gabriel is among the best in the League – but do you share this sentiment? Leave a comment below!
I City dominate possession and play even further up the pitch than Arsenal do. Also, because of the way City play, with a 3 man defence and Cancelo basically operating as a Left Wingback, Dias has cover either side of him and Rodri directly in front, which allows him to step up. This can probably account for his inflated number of interceptions.
Whilst there are many similarities in the way our club and City play, it isn’t the same. Partey doesn’t offer the same level of defensive cover and Ben White and Tierney/Tomiyasu tend to operate as more conventional full-backs. I think this is why when Gabriel makes a mistake it is of greater significance and garners more attention.
I agree that he has attracted some probably unfair criticism as last season he was a colossus for us. I don’t even think his standard has dropped from last season, I just think the solid play of Saliba has shone a light on Gabriel’s short-comings and got everyone thinking Saliba deserves a better partner rather than acknowledging that maybe Gabriel needs better cover.