Fulham, West Ham, a second string Liverpool and Sheffield United.
Gabriel Magalhaes – voted the Arsenal Player of the Month for September – has only played four games for the club. Three of those came in the league against opposition we’d be expected to beat, the other was a Carabao Cup tie against the champions. Albeit weakened champions, at that.
Especially in the case of Arsenal, supporters are going to get swept up in the hype of a defender who shows even moderately competent defensive acumen. If he’d have come on for the final 30 minutes of a match and put in a composed performance, we’d still have waxed lyrical.
There is reason for that. Having been deprived of centre-backs who don’t just have the ‘odd’ good performance nestled in between a series of calamitous ones, blind faith comes into play more than actual logical reasoning. Take William Saliba, for example, he was coveted as the saviour of the century, at 18 years old, having not even trained with the club.
In the case of Gabriel, despite the level of opposition he’s faced and the mere one and a half months he’s spent in north London, the fanfare isn’t baseless sentiment. Excellent in one-on-ones, an delightful passing technique that’s full of zip, aerial poise and intelligent positional awareness have all contributed to that.
Although, he hasn’t come up against Riyad Mahrez or Raheem Sterling. Mikel Arteta knows full well the risk you run of a player’s confidence being shot to pieces if they’re torn apart so early into their career. Leaving Gabriel out of the Premier League clash at Anfield was wise. As good as he’s been, a Sadio Mane-shaped cloud could well have hung heavy over his head beyond full-time.
That said, of course, the Carabao Cup clash saw him line up against Mohamed Salah, who you can be forgiven for forgetting even played.
A different kettle of fish will await him should he start on Saturday, an acid test of blistering pace and wide-ranging skill sets, the like of which he may only have faced when taking on Paris Saint-Germain with Lille.
It’ll be a battle, that much we can be sure of. Coming through a trip to the Etihad majorly unscathed is something few Arsenal defenders – if any – have done for over five years. The Gunners will need big performances from all, Gabriel must stand firm.