And breathe. No late hiccups, no sudden change of heart. He’s here.
In truth, Gabriel Magalhães has been here for some time. The Arsenal hierarchy were just feeding off the anguish of the millions of supporters being teased daily about the announcement like some kind of social media vampires.
Medicals, papers and the like were signed a while ago, but at last it’s confirmed, and we can begin looking forward. The wait is over.
Now the fun begins. More specifically, how Arsenal will use Gabriel for the coming season. If you include Pablo Mari and William Saliba, then he’s the third central defender to link up permanently with the club this window.
As it is, despite boasting 8,000 centre-backs, very few are actually available.
Shkodran Mustafi and Mari are both injuried, Sokratis, Sead Kolasinac and Rob Holding look on their way out this summer, while Konstantinos Mavropanos is on loan over in Germany. That leaves David Luiz, Saliba, Gabriel and….yeah, that’s it.
Of course there is room to maneuver with a few players, as Kieran Tierney has shown himself to be more than capable – superb, in fact – filling in on the left side of a back three, while the aforementioned Kolasinac has been utilised in that role, too (he hasn’t left just yet).
Ahead of September 12th at Craven Cottage, just how may Mikel Arteta structure his backline heading into his maiden full season in charge? Let’s take a look at the options.
William Saliba – David Luiz – Gabriel Magalhães
This is the one everyone is most excited to see. It’s also probably the least likely to happen in west London, as well. Okay, maybe not the least, but it’s a still big ask of the two new boys to slot straight into a back three in their first Premier League venture.
On paper it makes perfect sense, though. Right-footed Saliba on his preferred side, Luiz central were he has adequate cover and Gabriel on his favoured left side as the player Arteta has been so desperately crying out for since he joined.
The caveat to that is that Gabriel is not match fit having been forced to quarantine since coming to England. There is still time for training, but it would be a surprise to see Arteta thrust the Brazilian straight into the starting lineup so soon after arriving. However, forgetting that for a moment, let’s look at some other options anyway.
William Saliba – Gabriel Magalhães – Kieran Tierney
A formation that could suit the latest acquisition. Gabriel’s ball carrying qualities have been widely praised, so giving him the Luiz-esque freedom to push out from defence is an enticing proposition, yet this lineup is also somewhat precarious.
Arteta, and the fans, have an immense amount of faith in both Saliba and Gabriel, but it’s far too risky to deploy them alongside each other for both players’ first foray in English football.
They will need the experienced head of Luiz to guide them through proceedings as they make strides towards understanding the division. For Arteta, he will know how damaging it could be to knock their confidence so soon into their Arsenal careers, no matter who much faith the club have in them.
Hector Bellerin – David Luiz – Gabriel Magalhães – Kieran Tierney
Oh how delightful, we’ve moved into a back four now. Having drifted away from such a setup at the latter end of last season, it could be too soon to switch back into this shape with the new season on the horizon.
That is true, but it is also the system that Gabriel has been playing in for Lille prior to joining the Gunners. In a back four, Luiz could be his Jose Fonte, the fellow long-standing professional who knows the game inside out, aiding to an easier bedding in period for the new arrival.
It’s no secret that a back four will be Arteta’s preferred approach when he has the right personnel, but whether that will be the port of call quite so soon is still debatable.
Hector Bellerin – William Saliba – Gabriel Magalhães – Kieran Tierney
With a nod towards the future, this is the back four most Arsenal fans are hoping will become the Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn for years to come. Based on the fees paid in bringing in the defensive players, it also looks like being the club’s, too.
There is no avoiding the omission of Premier League experience in the heart of this defence, though. With an emphasis on ‘the future’, this lineup is more likely to become a common fixture in 2021/22, no matter how much fans are harking for it right now.
It’s got balance, height, pace and technical ability in abundance. It is just too soon, unfortunately. Luiz was signed on an extended deal for a reason. We’ll have to be patient waiting for this particular set up.