Premier League • England

Mikel Arteta lauds Arsenal man for impressive turnaround in creating fearsome pairing – ‘everyone notices the change’

Mikel Arteta managing Arsenal

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says Gabriel Magalhaes is reaping the rewards for the hard work it was clear he had to do to even get a sniff of first-team action.

The Gunners signed the centre-back in the summer of 2020 from Lille to help revamp their defence. After a bit-part role in his debut season, he only missed three Premier League games last term.

And Gabriel has played every minute of Arsenal’s impressive Premier League campaign this time around.

His centre-back partner William Saliba has been earning mountains of praise amid his adaptation at Arsenal. The Frenchman, who signed for Arsenal a year before Gabriel, has only earned his first-team chance this term.

But amid the praise for the 21-year-old, Arteta insisted that Gabriel also deserves praise for his progress.

“I don’t see central defenders as individuals,” the manager said. “They are always partnerships and there has to be an element of chemistry, understanding and complementing each other, and those two maximise each other’s qualities in a really positive way.

“Gabriel was coming from France, still raw physically, he wasn’t developed, he wasn’t in the muscular tone that obviously we wanted.

“But he has been really disciplined and working really hard to improve that because he understands the physicality in this league is really demanding. You see him physically and everyone notices the change.”

Gabriel received a red card in each of his two full seasons at Arsenal. However, he has kept a clean slate so far this term and is yet to receive a single yellow.

Arteta piles praise on Gabriel, White

The integration of Saliba this season has pushed 2021 centre-back signing Ben White out to right-back.

But, Arteta feels the former Brighton man fits well there and could even play for England in that role.

“Ben would be very comfortable playing on the right of a back three as well as in the middle, or as a full-back,” the manager added when speaking to the Daily Mirror.

“If you ask me if he is ready to make that step then the answer is, ‘Yes, because he is a very confident boy, he gives you absolutely everything, he is always available and he has the courage to play under real pressure’.

“We all believed he had the qualities to play at right-back and the most important step, probably, was for him to believe he could do it and feel comfortable in that position, and know this position could maximise his potential and give him another dimension as a player. The fact he can play in various positions makes him a more complete player and he’s very happy with that.”

Arsenal signings have paid off

Arsenal have earned praise in a number of areas this season, but Arteta is right to mention his defence.

The recruitment there in recent transfer windows has proved mightily effective. Gabriel and Ben White were the centre-back pairing last season and they struck up a solid connection.

However, Saliba has added more competition and White has not become frustrated at the development.

Instead, he has showed his versatility by moving to right-back. And in that sense, White has created competition with last summer’s signing Takehiro Tomiyasu.

Over on the left flank, Oleksandr Zinchenko is challenging Kieran Tierney.

Arsenal’s recruitment has proved impressive in recent transfer windows and their current defensive structure is a sign of that.