Alongside precocious young defender William Saliba, who eventually arrived at the club this summer following a season back on loan at St Etienne, Arsenal could have a new-look defensive pairing that cut their teeth in French football.
Let's have a look at their statistics from last season to assess what kind of players they are getting
Gabriel and Saliba Statistics in 2019/20
|Tackles Att/Won P90||1.8/1.2||1.8/0.9||1.0/0.5|
|Aerials Att/Won P90||5.4/3.5||4.4/2.6||3.0/1.6|
|Duels Att/Won P90||9.5/6.4||8.7/5.4||6.1/3.1|
|Dribbles Past P90||0.43||0.44||0.51|
Saliba's number of minutes in Ligue 1 were restricted as a result of injury and Arsenal would have hoped keeping him there on loan would have produced more game time. But the time spent on the pitch wasn't wasted.
Saliba, at 6ft 4', is a commanding presence but one that uses his frame well to regain possession. His 2.1 interceptions and 7.8 recoveries P90 are numbers among the best in Ligue 1, despite the small sample size.
Gabriel is definitely the more adept of the two in terms of winning physical battles. He ranks among the best central defenders in the division for % of tackles won, as well as duels P90, which would make them an interesting duo playing alongside each other.
In comparison David Luiz, likely to be the main competition in the centre with Sokratis and Rob Holding thought to be moving on, has win % of around 50% for duels, aerial duels and tackles. Gabriel is far superior in this department than the Brazilian and he was almost certainly provide a level of stability that has been missing in that position.
|Pass Comp %||83%||88%||85%|
|Final Third Pass P90||9.2||5.6||8.1|
|Long Balls P90||9.6||4.3||10.9|
|Prog Pass Distance P90||386||285||341|
Gabriel is adept on the ball and is one of the highest-volume passers of any centre-back in France that doesn't play for PSG. His pass completion % is a little low but the fact that he plays 9.6 long balls P90 suggests more about Lille's style of play and their ability to go direct at times.
Passing is one of Luiz's best attributes but Gabriel has rather similar numbers in this respect. Saliba, meanwhile, has a lower output but from a passing perspective so do St Etienne as a team. He may be asked to play some more direct passes than he is necessarily used to, however.
This is represented in the respective progressive pass distance P90 of the three; Saliba's passing directions can be deemed to be 'safer' and in closer proximity than the other two, while Gabriel's ability to move the ball forward effectively and over distance could be very attractive to Arteta.
Arteta has acquired a varied skillset in these two young defenders and with the experience of Luiz as an additional option - despite his tendency for mistakes - is an intriguing trio, one that with Kieran Tierney could easily be switched to a back three if necessary.
Arsenal have made two shrewd acquisitions and, over time, could be the cornerstone to build on some of their excellent defensive performances against other top sides of late.