After a disappointing defeat at St. Mary’s, Arsenal got back on track with a win over Bournemouth on Monday, and while it was once again Mesut Ozil who wrote the headlines with a goal and an assist, there was another Arsenal star who stood out at the Emirates, and that was Gabriel.
The Brazilian, who was deputising for Laurent Koscielny at central defence, was an absolute stalwart at the back and did not put a step wrong as the Gunners cruised to a 2-0 win over the visitors. Apart from making countless strong tackles and well-read interceptions, Gabriel also showed great pace and aerial prowess which he used to break down one Cherries attack after the other.
But perhaps the most impressive aspect of his game was his aerial prowess. The former Villareal man won literally all the aerial duels he was involved in and was a constant threat in the opposition penalty area, the Bournemouth defenders just could not handle him. In addition, he was very good with the ball at his feet and showed great distribution from the back.
If you’d ask me, it is only a matter of time before Gabriel breaks into Arsene Wenger’s starting eleven. The 25-year-old has absolutely everything it takes to become a top Premier League defender. Perhaps the only thing holding him back until this point was his problems with the English language, and it is understood that he’s improved on that as well.
For me, Arsenal’s first-choice pairing in central defence should be Koscielny and Gabriel. While Mertesacker is a good defender with loads of experience, the German really lacks pace and sometimes tends to get bullied by opponents, weaknesses which are often exposed by opposition forwards. While Wenger is unlikely to change anything now, I think we can expect to see Gabriel take Mertesacker’s place by the beginning of next season.