Gabriel Magalhaes exclusive interview: Brazilian defender on Arsenal project and telling Gabriel Jesus to join
Gabriel Magalhaes tells Sky Sports about helping new signings settle and why he is fully committed to the Arsenal project; follow Arsenal vs Leicester on Sky Sports digital platforms on Saturday; kick-off 3pm; watch free highlights from 5.15pm
It turns out manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu were not alone in convincing Gabriel Jesus to join Arsenal. In June, weeks before the 25-year-old’s arrival was finally confirmed, his namesake Gabriel Magalhaes was also on the case…TAP..TO.CONTINUE READING.
“Gabriel is a really good guy,” the centre-back tells Sky Sports of his new team-mate. “Of course, it helps that we have the Brazilian link. When we were on international duty, we discussed his future and I was telling him, ‘Come to Arsenal! Come to Arsenal!'”
“Maybe I had a bit of an influence there.”
Gabriel utters the last line jokingly. But if Jesus already feels at home in his new surroundings – and his explosive start to life at Arsenal suggests he does – then it is partly down to the countryman and international team-mate helping him settle in.
“He is someone who is very focused and really enjoys working hard,” adds Gabriel. “He is here to improve the team and he is already doing that. He has come here with big expectations. He wants to achieve big things with Arsenal. I think he is really going to help us.”
The former Manchester City striker, outstanding in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Friday, is now one of four Brazilians – and, of course, three Gabriels – in the Arsenal dressing room.
“Sometimes people shout, ‘Gabi, Gabi!’ and all three of us look around,” says Gabriel with a smile.
“But out on the pitch, one is Jesus, the other is Martinelli, and I’m Gabi. It’s a bit complicated for people, but it’s not so difficult for us. We talk a lot and we understand each other well.”
Gabriel is speaking to Sky Sports under the baking midday sun at Arsenal’s London Colney headquarters. The mood is positive.
Last year, they started the season with a tumultuous run of three consecutive losses. On Saturday, they face Leicester at the Emirates Stadium aiming for a second consecutive win.
“We are definitely in a better place now,” says Gabriel.
“There were lots of changes at the club in the summer and it was important to make a good start. The determination and focus we showed against Crystal Palace were key to getting the three points.”
Gabriel Jesus in action for Arsenal against Crystal Palace
The themes of determination and focus resurface repeatedly during our interview and they are qualities Gabriel sees in new signings Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fabio Vieira, Matt Turner and Marquinhos, as well as Jesus. They have, he says, added considerable quality too.
“I think when new players come in, they always boost the level of quality in the squad. That goes for the new signings but also the players who have come back from loans.
“Everyone is here to help the team. Having more quality will help us get Arsenal where it needs to be.”
That, of course, means back into the Champions League.
Arsenal fell agonisingly short last season, finishing two points behind Tottenham in fifth place. But their reinforced squad, now older and wiser, looks well set to deliver improvement this time around.
Gabriel, a £27m signing from Lille two years ago, will be key to it.
Last season, the Brazilian started all but three of Arsenal’s Premier League games, playing more minutes than any of his team-mates and making his presence felt in both boxes.
Indeed, as well as ranking top for tackles, clearances, touches and successful passes, Gabriel scored five goals, including three with his head, his aerial prowess helping to make Arsenal one of the most dangerous teams in the division from set-pieces and further underlining his growing importance to the side.
“I think the Premier League is definitely one of the toughest leagues to play in and I would say I have definitely improved a lot since arriving here,” he says. “That goes for my passing, my heading, and various other aspects of my game.”
Gabriel is grateful for the close attention he has received from Arteta and his staff – “I think the coaches have helped me a lot,” he says – and, while he opts to conduct this interview in Portuguese, his understanding of English has improved markedly too.
Gabriel Magalhaes celebrates with Gabriel Martinelli during pre-season
“The first year was a bit tougher, in terms of settling in,” he adds.
“That doesn’t mean the second year was easy, but it was certainly better. My English had improved by then. I was able to communicate better with my team-mates on the pitch.”
Arteta described Gabriel as a player with an “incredible future” last season and the initial language barrier did not prevent him from quickly becoming a leader in their defence.
Gabriel, while softly spoken in front of the media, is a vocal presence on the pitch who can usually be seen orchestrating Arsenal’s backline and directing team-mates in and out of possession.
“I like having that responsibility,” he says. “It’s important to have leaders in defence who communicate a lot with the whole team. We are all improving our communication, I think.”
That improvement can be seen in the speed with which Arsenal’s new arrivals have adapted, including centre-back William Saliba, whose outstanding Premier League debut alongside Gabriel against Crystal Palace, following three consecutive loan spells in France, earned him widespread plaudits.
William Saliba won the man-of-the-match award against Crystal Palace
As with Jesus, Gabriel is playing a key role in helping the young Frenchman bed in.
“He’s a young player who came here at a very young age and then went out to get some experience. Now, despite his age, he is already playing for the French national team. That tells you how good he is. He’s here to help the team and he’s a very promising talent.
“He is a good friend of mine already,” Gabriel adds. “We speak French together, so that helps. He has added a lot of quality to the team and I think he has a brilliant future ahead of him.”
Gabriel, of course, is well placed to offer advice and guidance to the 21-year-old having made the transition from France, where he spent three years with Lille, to England at roughly the same age.
I am very happy here. I’ve got a good relationship with my team-mates and I am fully committed to the project.
“I have been here for two years now, so I do have experience that I can use to help him,” he says. “But at the same time, he can help me. He has a lot of quality and a lot of physical strength out on the pitch.
“We have similar qualities. I think we complement each other well.”
Arsenal supporters now hope Saliba will continue to blossom in much the same way as Gabriel, whose progress has led to reported interest from European giants Juventus and Barcelona this summer.
“It’s always nice to get that recognition but I’m really focused on Arsenal,” he says.
“I am very happy here. I’ve got a good relationship with my team-mates and I am fully committed to the project.
“I am convinced that, with the project we have, we can achieve a lot.”
Arsenal players celebrate after Gabriel Jesus put the Gunners 3-0 up against Sevilla
Image: Arsenal have taken their impressive pre-season form into the Premier League campaign
It is quiet at London Colney, apart from occasional interludes when Gabriel’s team-mates drive past the area where we are seated on their way home, but last season the team’s every move was closely followed by Amazon’s cameras for the All or Nothing documentary.
“I’ve seen it,” Gabriel says, smiling again. He now hopes the series will help to bring the players and supporters even closer together.
“It’s good for showing the reality of what is actually going on in the dressing room in the day-to-day. People can understand things a little more and see how different it is from what they might imagine.
“As players, of course we always play to win. But sometimes we lose games and there are difficult moments. Things happen. I think the documentary does a good job of showing the reality of what goes on.”
The cameras are gone now. But for Arsenal, that reality continues. Expect Gabriel, in particular, to approach Saturday’s game against Leicester with as much determination and focus as ever.…TAP..TO.CONTINUE READING.
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