The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at Arsenal linked Gabriel Magalhaes and how his addition could be a masterstroke from Mikel Arteta.
Gabriel Magalhaes has become the hottest topic in north London in recent weeks, with dozens of renowned sources suggesting that his move from LOSC Lille is imminent. In fact, the Brazilian appears to have even completed his medical at Emirates and will join the club soon in a deal worth £27 million. He is set to become the second signing for the Gunners this summer.
But, is he exactly the player Mikel Arteta is looking for? Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at Gabriel Magalhaes and how he could fit in at Emirates, in what is the latest edition of our THT Transfer Analysis series.
What Does Gabriel Bring To The Table?
Gabriel is advertised as a ball-playing centre-back. His main assets revolve around the technical aspect of the game, including a useful left-foot that offers him an excellent range of passing.
The defender’s expertise when it comes to ball distribution is reflected in his statistics, with 225 of his 1219 completed passes coming in the opposition half – a league-high. The Brazilian had also attempted more forward passes (578) than any other Lille player this past season.
Meanwhile, a tally of 170 passes while under pressure from the opponent is significantly higher than his defensive teammates except for attacking left-back, Zeki Celik. It is also indicative of Gabriel’s ability to navigate the ball out from the back.
Gabriel’s game is not only restricted to just passing, however, as he is also a competent defender, both physically and aerially. His imposing 1.90m frame, in particular, gives him a considerable advantage in the air, with the centre-back winning 3.5 headed duels per game – a tally only bettered by Victor Osimhen in the Lille side in the 2019/20 campaign.
Gabriel’s aerial prowess helps him out on the opposite end of the pitch as well. In fact, only six central defenders have bettered his tally of 16 attempts on goal in Ligue 1 last season, with 12 of shots originating from headed efforts.
Meanwhile, the Brazilian is also known for his sheer commitment and the solidity he can provide to the table. During the 2019/20 campaign, for example, Gabriel got dribbled past only 0.43 times per 90, which is considerably lower than the two Arsenal incumbents David Luiz (0.51) and Shkodran Mustafi (0.83).
The Lille defender outclasses both the Arsenal stars in terms of tackles won per 90 minutes (1.34) as well and by a significant margin (0.64 and 0.67). Such defensive prowess, therefore, combines well with a pinch of technical brilliance – making Gabriel one of the most talented and complete defenders in Ligue 1 at the moment.
A Perfect Fit For Arsenal
Gabriel could flourish at Arsenal for multiple reasons as Mikel Arteta looks to find a proper identity to the club’s backline that has often been ridiculed by the footballing world over the past few years.
In the current side, the addition of the 22-year-old should allow Arteta to further strengthen his three-man central defensive setup. He could deploy the new signing alongside David Luiz and potentially, William Saliba.
The young Frenchman only returned from his loan spell at St. Etienne this summer and much like Gabriel, is renowned for height and technical prowess. These two have the pace necessary to complement the experienced, yet slow and often tentative nature of Luiz, who has undeniable qualities in the build-up play.
Gabriel, in particular, could become an asset in the left-sided centre-back role largely thanks to the fact that he is a left-footed defender. He can, thus, unlock the much-needed connection between the defence and the wing-backs, ultimately strengthening Arsenal’s prospects of initiating attacks from the back.
However, it is his ability to threat laser passes in between the lines that could make him a proper upgrade over players like Sead Kolasinac, Sokratis and Rob Holding.
It should not only ease Arsenal’s build-up play from the back but also make them more proactive when dealing with the opposition. The Gunners could additionally become much more effective in negating counter-attacks, thanks to the Brazilian’s pace. And it bodes well for Arteta, who is desperate to add the much-needed dynamism and flexibility in his style of play.
What Does It Mean For Other Defenders?
While Gabriel’s addition to the club will no doubt strengthen Arsenal’s defensive capabilities, it may not bode well for existing defenders.
Sokratis, in particular, is widely expected to exit the Emirates after featuring in just one game after the resumption of football in England. His lack of pace and quality are evidently not favoured by Arteta and a way out seems the right option.
The same applies to Shkodran Mustafi as well, even though the German played a key role in Arsenal’s rapid defensive improvement under Arteta since the turn of the year. The ex-Valencia star is far too error-prone and inconsistent to remain a part of the current setup and his sale could help fetch a good price from the club’s perspective.
Another player who is expecting a grim future at the Emirates is Rob Holding. The 24-year-old has done well since recovering from injury but he is simply not the type of player Arteta wants at the moment. Hence, a move away from north London makes sense, with Leeds United among the clubs interested in his services.
Even Calum Chambers is facing an uncertain future at Arsenal, although his injury might derail his future, which is clearly situated elsewhere. Nonetheless, the Gunners must ensure the departure of these three defenders if they are to balance their books following the impending arrival of Gabriel this summer.