Gabriel Magalhaes will be joining Arsenal after they agreed on a 27 million pound transfer fee with Lille for the defender. Magalhaes joined Lille from the Brazilian side Avai, where he started his career before moving to Ligue 1. He initially struggled at Lille and went out on loan twice, first to Troyes in Ligue 2 and later to Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb to gain experience and confidence. Magalhaes didn’t have an easy start with Lille but has now established himself as one of Europe’s most impressive center-backs after gaining Champions League experience last season despite Lille finishing bottom of their group behind Chelsea, Ajax, and Valencia. The Champions League experience could be beneficial for Magalhaes if he moves to the Premier League.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is acquiring a player that is of a different make-up to the defenders currently at his disposal. A section of football pundits is of the view that Magalhaes is presently among the top five dominant central defenders in European football. It was clear Arteta wanted another left-footed center-back, and Magalhaes fits that bill. He ticks that box and has the skill set required to thrive at Arsenal. Arsenal’s defense has been a topic of discussion for several seasons now, with the center-back areas a particular problem position. However, in Magalhaes, there is genuine hope Arsenal have finally found a long term solution to what has long been their Achilles heel.
What makes Magalhaes Special?
Magalhaes’ arrival means Arsenal have gotten a left-footed player whose composure on the ball is excellent. He was heavily involved in Lille’s build-up play last season. He always initiates attacks from deep, whether they were ground or long balls over the top for players to run onto in behind. His long game is also a big weapon. He can hit cross-field balls or passes over the opposition defense with excellent accuracy. Gabriel also completed 46.7 percent of long passes in last season’s shortened Ligue 1 campaign.
Even though Arsenal were ranked 18th in the Premier League for long balls last season, having a player who can play these type of long-range passes accurately is a useful option for Arteta’s side.
It could prove to be beneficial, especially in the big games, when they seek to counter-attack more. One of Magalhaes’ most significant attribute is his height. He stands at 6ft 3in and is an aerial threat at set-pieces. Magalhaes wins 3.56 aerial duels per 90 minutes and is extremely mobile and very robust in defensive duels. Magalhaes’ height will also make him a key asset in attacking and defending set-pieces scenarios. He is an excellent tackler.
In comparison to Arsenal’s current center-backs, he won 29 tackles at an average of 1.3 per game, more than David Luiz (16), Sokratis (16), and Mustafi (10) last season. Arteta enjoyed great success with a three-man defense towards the tail end of the season. That formation was also instrumental in Arsenal’s FA Cup win against Chelsea. The addition of Magalhaes would add a top-class center-back to Arteta’s squad, enabling players like Tierney, a natural wing-back, to shift into more conventional roles elsewhere on the pitch. Arteta can also revert to a back four, considering Magalhaes played the vast majority of a transformative season for Lille as part of a central two. Arteta could also consider switching his system to accommodate Magalhaes in his favored role. Magalhaes did not give away a single penalty in Ligue 1 last season and also did not make a single mistake. Magalhaes’ excellence in both areas of the game is very crucial as some of these errors blighted compatriot and future Arsenal teammate David Luiz last season.
Magalhaes has plenty of attributes that would enable him to provide consistent performances at the top. While the Arsenal fans are excitedly waiting to hear Megalhaes confirmation, they should know that he is a player who lacks experience with only 39 games under his belt for Lille. There are other weaknesses to Magalhaes’ game. He is far from a finished article, so he is bound to make mistakes. But with the right coaching, he has the technical qualities to become an excellent center-back. He is an intelligent acquisition and will be an integral part of Arteta’s Arsenal revolution.