Opinion: Gabriel Arsenal’s best centre back

Gabriel Magalhães may be the most recent addition to Arsenal’s defensive ranks but he is already better than the other centre backs at the club, according to Brazilian football enthusiast Renato.

Renato has been following Gabriel’s career closely since first noticing him as a teenager at Avía and believes his is set to become a key man for Mikel Arteta in the months ahead.

Magalhães completed his £27m transfer from LOSC Lille on Monday and joined a heavily congested defence with seven other central defenders currently at the club but Renato believes he has attributes that his new colleagues don’t.

At 1.90m Gabriel is just slightly smaller than William Saliba (1.92m) and Pablo Marî (1.93m) and boasts an impressive record in aerial duels. 

Unlike Marí his height doesn’t affect his mobility and he isn’t easily outpaced by attackers.  The Brazilian is comfortable on the ball and regularly attempts to pick out his teammates with long searching balls.

Those skills combined with his left foot preference suggests he could be a player Arteta calls on a lot. 

“In my opinion Arteta will ease him first as he has to adapt to English football, a lot different to the French league, but he’s already better than all the other centre backs at the club so I won’t be surprised if he starts straight in,” Renato said.

“Gabriel’s what we call a modern centre back. He’s usually the main playmaker at Lille, where he tries a lot of long balls per game.

“No other CB in Ligue 1 has completed as many final third entry passes as him while he ranks eight across the entire league. 

“He’s great one on one, very good physically, agile and fast. Thus, he usually does very well in the aerial game. 

“Gabriel’s hardly dribbled past or lost in speed to an attacker in Ligue 1 last season. 

“It seems clear to me that [Mikel] Arteta wants a left-footed defender in his team and even though the club signed Pablo Marî in January I believe the main target was always going to be Gabriel.

“He fits perfectly at what the Arsenal manager wants – fast, young but already has Champions League experience under his belt and a player whom has still a lot to improve.

With Napoli, Everton and Champions League bound Manchester United interested in the defender, Renato believes the Brazilian connection of technical director Edu Gaspar and the ideas of manager Mikel Arteta won him around.

“I believe Mikel Arteta was key for him choosing Arsenal,” he added, “plus the Brazilian connection at the club.

“From what I was told the Arsenal manager even cut his holidays short to meet him.

“Edu also knows Gabriel from his time at the Selecão – where Gabriel’s believed to be under Tite’s radar for a while.

“Lille’s president said recently that Gabriel is being watched by Brazilian FA for a while as they are keeping a close eye on him.

“The player has said in an interview in April that he wanted to go to the Premier League or to Serie A as he sees these leagues perfect for his style and where he can showcase his talent as his main dream is to reach Brazil’s national team.”

We will have to wait to see Gabriel in action as he will miss Saturday’s Premier League opener against Fulham as he is still in quarantine.

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