How Arsenal expected to lose one of their best players
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How Arsenal expected to lose one of their best players

22/05/24 06:06

Mikel Arteta raised the eyebrows of many fans on the opening weekend of the 2023/24 Premier League season when he left Brazilian centre-back Gabriel out of Arsenal’s starting line-up against Nottingham Forest.

After instead opting to play Thomas Partey at right-back and move Ben White into the middle, rumours circulated on social media as to the reason why. Many speculated of a fall out behind the scenes between the pair as the defender also didn’t start either of the next two matches against both Crystal Palace and Fulham.

However, in his latest piece for the Athletic, James McNicholas (aka gunnerblog) has revealed that there was actually anticipation from the club that the 26-year-old would be subject of a bid from the Saudi Professional League.

Saudi Interest?

The 2023 summer transfer window saw some of world football’s best talent move to the Saudi Professional League. Neymar, N’Golo Kante and even Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema were amongst the names to trade Europe for the riches of football’s newest gold mine.

Unlike a few of their league rivals, Arsenal were not fortunate enough to offload any of their unwanted players to the league for a healthy fee. Although it has now been revealed that the club were anticipating a bid from one of the league’s teams for defender Gabriel.

In the early stages of the season, the club believed that an offer for the player would be imminent and even drew up a list of potential replacements if the Brazilian was to leave which included both Marc Guehi and Aymeric Laporte. Having been strengthened by the signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City the previous summer, the Citizens made it clear that they would not wish to make the same mistake twice by letting Laporte leave for London. The Spaniard was eventually the one to make a move to Saudi Arabia, joining Cristiano Ronaldo at Al Nassr for a reported £26.3 million.

Arsenal’s Defensive Warrior

Gabriel went on to play a pivotal part of Arsenal’s defensive solidity this season. The Brazilian, who was signed from Lille in 2020, played a total of 50 games in 2023/24, keeping 20 clean sheets in the process. Over the past couple of seasons, his partnership with Frenchman William Saliba has posed a formidable test for any attacker on the planet and helped the north-London side concede the least number of goals in the Premier League this season.

Ahead of the Gunners’ match against Luton Town in April, Hatters boss Rob Edwards praised the duo in his pre-match press conference:

“They’ve got everything, haven’t they? They’ve got physicality, speed, power, but they’re very well coached and obviously they understand the game”, Edwards told the media.

“They can play pretty well as well with the ball so they’ve almost got the lot. It’s Arsenal Football Club and you would expect that as well.

“They’ve got such power and athleticism and they’re a big reason why they suffocate teams as well. They can lock on and be really aggressive and compete in any which way.”

The defender’s excellent form also saw him receive a call up to the Brazilian national team, for whom he now has six caps.

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