Arsenal have overtaken Napoli and Everton in the race to sign defender Gabriel from Lille, with the Gunners the favourites for his signature, according to French outlet France Bleu.
The north London club are looking to add a centre back, amongst other positions, before the transfer window closes on October 5th, and the Brazilian defender seems to be Arsenal’s first choice option.
It is believed, according to Le Petit Lillois, that Arsenal’s sudden movements in this deal have come as a result of winning the FA Cup, meaning the Gunners qualify for the Europa League next season and receive a cash bonus for doing so.
Arsenal haven’t had the greatest experience signing Brazilian defenders in the past, such as another Gabriel, who is now at Valencia, Andre Santos, a left back who only knew how to attack, and current defender David Luiz, who has arguably been the best signing of the three, despite his mistakes.
However, Arsenal fans certainly have a right to hope that Gabriel could put an end to the north London club’s bad history of signing Brazilian defenders. Before even mentioning his ability, it’s worth noting the Lille centre back is left footed, something manager Mikel Arteta desperately wants in his defence, as the injured Pablo Mari is the only senior left footed central defender at the club.
Gabriel, who has time on his side being just 22 years of age, also stands at 6’2”, meaning Arsenal could finally have two tall centre backs that are good on the ball, if youngster William Saliba plays alongside him.
In comparison to the Arsenal centre backs who have played ten or more games this season, Gabriel excels in a lot of areas. The Brazilian centre back has completed 1.7 tackles per game, better than Arsenal’s best in this area, Sokratis, with 1.3, and has committed, on average, just 0.8 fouls per game, again beating the Gunners central defenders.
Furthermore, the Lille centre back has only been dribbled past 0.3 times per game, although impressively, that is the same as Arsenal’s leader in this stat David Luiz, who has also completed more long balls and has a better pass success rate. However, this is more a credit to Luiz’ passing ability than a criticism of Gabriel’s.
Whilst this deal has not been picked up by any major media outlets, hence why it’s referred to as a rumour, I believe Gabriel would be an excellent signing for Arsenal if it were to go through. In my opinion, the Lille defender would add more balance, physicality and composure to the Arsenal defence, not to forget that his defensive positioning and awareness is much greater than any of the Gunners’ current options.
With the excellent addition of William Saliba, who has now returned from his loan with Saint Etienne, if Gabriel signed, Arsenal could well have a solid centre back partnership for the next decade, if the two of them develop as expected.