Arsenal star Gabriel’s actions vs Fulham explain Arteta’s love for him

Fulham vs Arsenal in pictures

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Arsenal were cruising to a 3-0 victory away to Fulham on Saturday after Leandro Trossard’s three first-half assists put the Gunners in an unassailable lead, but the hosts had a few late flurries that attempted to wipe out the Arsenal clean sheet. Antonee Robinson looped the ball high into the box in the 91st minute to find Aleksandar Mitrovic but the Serbian was beaten to his header by William Saliba, though the ball fell to Daniel James inside the box. The Welshman brought it under control but his attempt to find his striker was cut out imperiously by Gabriel.

The ball had been cleared for a corner but even if James’ cross was met by Mitrovic and powered past Aaron Ramsdale, the result would not have been in doubt and the three points would have remained on their way back to the Emirates with Arsenal.

However, given Gabriel’s celebration of the block, many could have believed that it was as crucial to the three points as his header from Trossard’s corner that gave Arsenal the lead in the 21st minute. The Brazilian pumped his fists energetically before being embraced by Gunners’ goalkeeper Ramsdale, in scenes that very much exemplify the incredible team spirit the north Londoners possess at the moment.  

“Gabriel enjoyed that block,” former Arsenal striker Alan Smith said on commentary for Sky Sports. “A clean sheet important for those defenders.” Gabriel shouted towards the Fulham supporters after snuffing out another chance, before high-fiving several of his team-mates as he displayed a mentality that is so important to boss Mikel Arteta.

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Only Newcastle have conceded fewer goals than the Arsenal defence this season, as Gabriel has been a bedrock of the back four and formed a strong partnership with Saliba in front of Ramsdale with Ben White and Oleksandr Zinchenko flanking the duo and Thomas Partey protecting in front.

Gabriel joined Arsenal in 2020 having moved from Lille in a £27million deal, as he has shown his worth during his stay in north London and penned a new contract in October until 2027. He has clearly impressed Arteta, as the Spaniard has started Gabriel in every single Premier League game so far this campaign and explained how the 25-year-old is developing both on and off the pitch.

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“Not only his performances, but the way he’s evolving,” Arteta said last month. “I think he’s just getting better in every phase of play and everything we demand him to do. His leadership skills, his importance to the team, his mentality as well. I think he’s come a long way since he joined the club.”

Gabriel is also proving to be a vital weapon in the opposition’s box too, having notched his third goal of the season in the win at Fulham.

He also scored in the reverse fixture in August in addition to the winner against Chelsea in November, though also hit the back of the net five times last season too.

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