The business Arsenal do in this transfer window will dictate their 2020/21 premier league destiny. Chelsea’s inability to make signings last year because of the transfer ban means they will be spending big and addressing key areas within their squad. They have already started with the acquisitions of Ziyech and Werner! Manchester United are a couple of signings away from being a serious side. And then you have teams like Wolves and Leicester who have shown to be very efficient and effective with the way they enter the market.
If we don’t act this summer, we could fall even further behind to the teams ahaed of us. We don’t need many players and ridiculous funds. We just need to address key areas such as a bringing in a commanding CB, a CM who adds steel, power and athleticism into the side and an 8/10 who provides creativity. But let’s look at the CB department. With Upamecano looking likely to sign an extension, this means we must look at other viable solutions. The next on my list is Gabriel Magalhaes.
A modern ball playing CB
His consistent level of performance for Lille this season has drawn interest from many clubs around Europe such as Manchester United, Napoli and Everton. Arteta has reiterated his desire to have a left footed CB playing on the left. In my opinion, it’s fundamental and helps aid progression from deep. Compared to a right footed CB, a left footed one on the left hand side provides better passing angles. Players in front would receive the ball in a more favoured position, and would reduce the likelihood of them adjusting their body angle and shape. It’s such a simple aspect but helps maintain fluidity of football in possession. Gabriel ticks this box. Left footed, composure on the ball and his progressive nature installed in his game should be music to Arteta’s ears. Heavily involved in Lille’s build up play, Gabriel is a player who breaks the lines regularly (40% of his passes completed are forward) and is always looking to initiate attacks from deep whether that’s ground passes or long balls over the top for players to run onto in behind. Statistically, his strong capabilities as a modern ball playing CB is shown below.
Total passes completed: 1228
Final third passes: 111
Percentage of final third passes to total passes: 9%
Average passes per game: 61.8
Pass completion rate: 84.3%
Successful long balls per game: 3.7
Total passes completed: 1481
Final third passes: 100
Percentage of final third passes to total passes: 6.8%
Average passes per game: 54.5
Pass completion rate: 86.5%
Successful long balls per game: 4.9
Total passes completed: 663
Final third passes: 48
Percentage of final third passes to total passes: 7.2%
Average passes per game: 56.3
Pass completion rate: 83.9%
Successful long balls per game: 3.2
Total passes completed: 1041
Final third passes: 109
Percentage of final third passes to total passes: 10.5%
Average passes per game: 76.5
Pass completion rate: 92.5%
Successful long balls per game: 3.9
Virgil Van Dijk
Total passes completed: 2791
Final third passes: 228
Percentage of final third passes to total passes: 8.2%
Average passes per game: 85.8
Pass completion rate: 90.5%
Successful long balls per game: 5.4
What you have to consider is that both City and Liverpool are teams who, whilst have different playing styles, dominate possession so both Van Dijk and Laporte will be superior to Gabriel in many aspects when on the ball. But statistically, it does show that his numbers are encouraging when compared to two of the elite CB’s in the division.
Gabriel impresses when compared to our two most progressive CB’s in Mustafi and Luiz. He provides greater efficiency and productivity in terms of final third passes, showing clearly his forward thinking nature and intent to build attacking play. Whilst his pass completion rate is lower than Luiz, a reason for this is because of being tasked to provide the progression from deep with his partner, Jose Fonte, possessing a playing style that is a lot more safe. But it’s evident his quality in possession suits the profile of CB Arteta wants.
Defensively, Gabriel has improved significantly in comparison to his previous years on loan at Dinamo Zagreb and Troyes. Despite being 6ft 3in, he is pretty quick which helps him recover his positioning and cope with players who run in behind. For someone still young, he is a good reader of the game and anticipates the ‘off the ball’ movement of opposing players fairly well.
In terms of aerial duels, Gabriels success rate stands at 71% this season. Comparing this to our current CB options, only Mustafi (75.6%) is superior in this aspect. He completes more tackles per game (1.7) than anyone of our CB’s as well as averaging 3.3 clearances per game, which shows his strong defensive positioning around the box. Only Holding (5.4) and Mustafi (4.7) better Gabriel in terms of clearances. What this does show is that he fares well when compared to the current crop of players we have at our disposal.
What we do need to understand is that he still is raw and needs further polishing in aspects such as his awareness out of possession. He tends to drop deep which prevents the players around him along the back line from stepping up and being aggressive. He would obviously need to improve on this aspect since the style and football Arteta is looking to implement, the backline must be comfortable in playing a high line and always having the intent and desire to win the ball back higher up the pitch. But this is an area in his game that will develop with more competitive game time and coaching.
We must also remember is that Gabriel is still a player who lacks experience, with only 39 games under his belt at Lille. There are other weaknesses to his game such as being extremely left footed and his surprisingly minimal threat in the opposition box in set piece situations.
But he has plenty of attributes that would enable him to provide consistent performances for a top, established club. Standing at 6ft 3in, he’s a commanding CB with a physical build tailored to the Premier league. His versatility is another strong point as he has shown his capabilities of playing in a black three or four system.
It’s widely reported that a fee of £25M would be enough to acquire his signature. It’s a no brainer in my opinion, especially when you consider how high his ceiling is. Arteta has shown to gain great levels of performance out of ‘uncoachable’ defenders, so imagine what he could do with Brazilian. A potential future pairing of Gabriel and Saliba sounds exciting to me!
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23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.