Very few people know more about the French league than Robin Bairner of goal.com @Rbairner. His information and analysis of Arsenal latest Brazilian acquisition; Gabriel Magalhaès can thus be regarded as valuable and reliable.
This and many others were the reasons why I had an interview with him to get the lowdown on the Brazilian centre back and I trust you wouldn’t find anyone better somewhere.
Below is the entire interview for your perusal.
First of all, how to do we pronounce the name?
He’s only been known as Gabriel since signing for Lille, so I’m not sure I can reliably help you on that one!
How long has it been since Gabriel has been on the scene and grabbed your attention?
He’s been with Lille since 2017, when he had just turned 19, which is when I first saw him. Initially he went out on loan to Ligue 2 side Troyes but didn’t make a big impression there and it was only in 2018 that he started to play more regularly for Lille.
What are his strengths and attributes in your opinion?
He’s very good in the air and he’s strong when it comes to making last-ditch slide tackles. Generally, when he’s asked to do a pure bit of defending, he’s good at it
Seeing as he is only 22, do you think Gabriel possesses the needed experience and attributes to command or lead a backline like Arsenal’s? Does he have leadership potential?
No, to be honest. He’s still quite naive in a lot of his defensive work and needs to work on his positioning. He did well in Lille because he was playing beside Jose Fonte, whose experience and communication helped him look good. That’s not to say he can’t be a leader in the future, but he’s not ready for it now.
Does Gabriel have any obvious weaknesses? How would you describe those weaknesses?
As I described above, his positional game is quite poor and it’s likely that to get the best out of him, Arsenal will need to pair him with a reliable, older centre-back. I’m not sure they’ve got that in their ranks.
One of the reasons he looks so good with his slide tackles is because he gets into positions where he to desperately make them. For me, the best centre-backs don’t need to go to ground so regularly because they can read the game so well. That’s definitely something he needs to work upon.
Do you think these weaknesses would be greatly expose in the premier league?
Yes – especially if he’s not playing around the right players. We saw in the Champions League for Lille last season he was a weak link in the defence. Maybe this will only be the case against Top 6-8 clubs, though.
What kind of a defensive partner, do you think, would complement Gabriel’s strength and also cover his weaknesses?
Someone experienced, basically. Fonte was perfect for him at Lille. David Luiz could be that player if he cut out his mistakes, but I don’t think anyone believes that’s going to happen…
In terms of adaptation, how fast or slow do you think Gabriel will take to get used to the premier league?
Judging by his adaption in France, it’s difficult to say. It took him a long time to settle, but once he started playing, he looked more comfortable.
Are we likely to see Gabriel hit the ground running?
By the time the Premier League restarts, it’ll have been six months since he played competitive football. If he finds his best form immediately, it would be incredible. That’s down to circumstances rather than anything unique with the player.
Does Gabriel have any baggage, in terms of his lifestyle and character on and off the pitch, that you feel can affect his game and team morale?
Not that I’m aware of.
Do you think, at the reported price, Gabriel could be classed as a bargain or value for money?
Only time will tell. I was surprised that teams were willing to pay as much as €30m for him, but he’s still very young and has a decent amount of scope to improve. Additionally, there’s not many young centre-backs on the market at the moment.
Where do you see his game in the next four to five years?
That depends on how well this move goes. It’s going to be difficult at Arsenal without an experienced partner, I think. I don’t see him becoming a world-class player, but he should develop into someone who can do a solid job in the Premier League. Arsenal will need to give him time and the fans will need to understand that he needs to learn. Given his big transfer fee and the club’s history of issues in defence, I’m not sure he’ll be given that. I’ve got my fingers crossed for him, though.
Arsenal enthusiast and writer from Ghana. Love all things Arsenal and football. Sharing is caring. This is an opportunity to share my opinion about the game with the rest of the world. Please would you spare some time and read what I have written and also feel free to comment what you think about it. Thanks!