Gabriel Magalhães and William Saliba: Arsenal’s defensive force

A center-back pairing was formed last season in the Arsenal squad, with William Saliba returning from Ligue 1 side Marseille on loan. Both Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães have become important players in Mikel Arteta’s side, the latter joining the Gunners in 2020.

Gabriel has been partnered with many players in his time at Arsenal, he has played with the likes of David Luiz, Pablo Mari, Rob Holding, and Ben White. He has been at his best with both White and Saliba. Arteta has converted Ben White into a right-back to integrate Saliba into the side. That has allowed him to fit all three players in the lineup.

From the first time the duo played with each other, Gabriel stated that Saliba was one of “the best” defenders in the Premier League after their 2-0 win against Crystal Palace in the season’s opening game. Alongside this, he said “for me, he’s the best. He’s very young, very promising and a very good player,” and that he is “so happy to play with him, together. He has now started in the Premier League and he was so good.”

Saliba also has only positive comments about his Brazilian partner, saying “we are happy to play together. We speak French so that’s easy. I love to play with him. He’s a really good player and a good leader as well. So yeah, I enjoy every game with him.”

Gabriel Magalhães’ quality

Gabriel has a huge presence within the side, both defensively and as a goal-attacking threat. He has the ability to contribute to the scoresheet, scoring three goals last season. On each occasion, it impacted the game in a considerable way.

Gabriel is also essential to Arsenal’s build-up play, as he is responsible – alongside Saliba – to continuously recycle the ball whilst playing a high line against opponents. They also are tasked with dominating possession and forcing the opposition into a low block. He has an average of 62.82 passes a game.

Focusing on his defensive side, he has improved a lot when it comes to going recklessly into challenges. That was a mistake he would usually commit throughout games that sometimes resulted in conceding. Now, he is a player that does not go to ground unless absolutely necessary, and when he does, it has significant impact.

William Saliba’s quality

Renowned for his composure on the ball, and referred to as the “Rolls-Royce” of defenders by many, Saliba stepped into the Premier League and played like he was born ready. He is very disciplined on and off the ball, and reads the game well at just 22 years old.

Like Gabriel, he managed to score three goals last season, with his first goal being one to remember. He is also essential to Arsenal’s build-up play, averaging 69.10 passes a game with a pass completion rate of 91%. That is thr highest in the Arsenal side – behind him were Gabriel (89.4%), Thomas Partey (87.2%), and Oleksandr Zinchenko (86.4%).

Saliba was dribbled past just three times last season, putting him ahead of the likes of Virgil van Dijk (10), Lisandro Martinez (9), and Ruben Dias (5). He is a player that does not lunge into challenges, ensuring his tackles are going to be successful. A confident individual in one-on-one situations is what you need in a high-level league like the Premier League.

The duo

As a duo, they are perfect for each other and Arsenal. Arteta described them to be a “happy marriage.” Their individual qualities and understanding of each other make them one of the best partnerships in the league. Gabriel has matured a lot as a player since he joined the side, while Saliba’s impact on the team has been nothing short of sensational.

It is huge for Arsenal to have both Gabriel and Saliba tied down to long-term contracts, due to the fact they are just getting started. It is scary to see how they will be in a couple of years’ time.

Looking at how much both they were purchased for, it was a bargain considering the current market. Gabriel cost Arsenal €26m, with Saliba requiring €30m.

The past

In previous times at Arsenal, defensive issues have been one of the main factors that contributed to the bad results, however, that is not the case anymore, having players like Gabriel, Saliba, Zinchenko, White, and Jurriën Timber as options show how far the side has come from recent times.

Arteta will have a headache over which backline to play throughout next season. However, Arsenal fans can have full trust in this group of players, as the quality is immense.

Related articles


Share article

Latest articles