After years of sub-par defending at the back, Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba are now the future of Arsenal.
This is imperative for the club; Mikel Arteta is building something sustainable, and potentially fierce in north London. For this to truly occur however, a strong defensive center and peripheries must be acquired. Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba are those players Arsenal will have going into the future.
In the Brazilian centre-back, formerly of Lille, 22-year-old Gabriel Magalhaes represents the perfect partner for former St. Etienne 19-year-old William Saliba. While the two may not immediately get consistent starting time together, in front of either Emi Martinez or Bernd Leno, they have the potential to grow into a truly stalwart Arsenal pairing.
Gabriel Magalhaes & William Saliba, Meet David Luiz
Arsenal are not particularly deep at the centre-back position currently; Rob Holding is going to be a Magpie on loan, Shkodran Mustafi is reportedly a target from outside of England, while Callum Chambers doesn’t appear to have a future with Arsenal either.
With this said, David Luiz will not necessarily be alone with the two young players either; Cedric Soares, and Pablo Mari are remaining Gunners. But it will be especially up to Luiz to help guide these two, the future of Arsenal, in the direction Arteta desires.
While Luiz is knocking on, his guile and intellect on the pitch remains mercurial. For a boss like Arteta, part Pep, part Wenger, this cerebral quality bears a weight not appreciated by all; for young players with all of the physical tools, patience is key, and commanding the mental aspect is critical.
And so while Gabriel and William serve patiently in rotation alongside the likes of David Luiz and Mari, they will improve physically as well as mentally. By the time they command the back together, they will be mental know-how of someone 31 years old, while physically younger than 25.
What to Expect When They Do Play Together
This mental and physical maturity is crucial, only when both sides of the game are conjoined can the full potential of any player be unlocked. To speak of maintaining the last lines of defense, alongside the responsibilities that come with playing out from the back, needs a quick foot and cool head.
And we will see the two together. Gabriel and Saliba could very well feature in Carabao or FA Cup matches. Against teams fresh up to the Premier League, they could also see action; in these matches, athleticism will be displayed that Arsenal haven’t seen in quite some time.
In the former Lille defender, Gabriel has all the tools necessary. His speed, alongside his physical nature are what attracted so many English teams to him over the last months. Had Arsenal not prized him away, Chelsea, Everton or Manchester United likely would’ve.
In Saliba, Arsenal receive their final gift of the Unai Emery era; might the Gunners have had a better defense had Saliba been able to come straight to London without one final year in France? In any event, with his presence, Arsenal have who they hope will be the closest thing to Virgil van Dijk one can wish for.
Speed, physicality, positioning, and a certain level of maturity have marked the player before Arsenal had identified him. It will be interesting to see how long the older centre-backs are able to hold off the insurgent youth; however long any of us are thinking, we are probably overshooting the prediction.
Gabriel Magalhaes & William Saliba: Arsenal’s Future, but How Soon?
With these two clawing to make an impact in the famous red and white, it would not surprise me to see them grow into a larger towards the latter end of the season. The mixture of good teachers and good spirit will garner a greater stability and dependability for Arsenal.
In European football today, everyone is looking for great centre-backs. For the Gunners, it has been as difficult as any, although not as expensive as Manchester City to be sure; it feels as though the Arteta era is a turning point for many of Arsenal’s idiosyncrasies – and this is simply one of them. For a future of domestic silverware and European competition, Arteta will need Gabriel and Saliba; now is when we witness the start of a new era defensively in north London.