As Arsenal secured an all-important victory over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the FA Cup, there were some stand-out performers in the red and white of the Gunners. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rob Holding and of course, Alexis Sanchez, all stood out for Arsene Wenger’s team, but one player who I was pleasantly surprised by was Gabriel, who unarguably had his best game in an Arsenal shirt.
Simply put, Gabriel was a stalwart in a much-improved Arsenal backline. The defender made numerous vital interceptions, made strong tackles, was good in the air and maintained high levels of concentration throughout the 120 minutes of the game. But more than any other aspect of his performance, his drive and desire impressed me the most. Gabriel simply did not back down and took his golden opportunity in the semi-final of the FA Cup with both hands.
Since his move to England in January 2015, the Brazilian has had a somewhat hit-and-miss spell at the Emirates. While he did have some good performances showing pace, effectiveness in the air and an iron will, the player has also made some glaring errors which have resulted in the former Villareal man dropping down the pecking order of central defenders at Arsenal. But in my opinion, he really made a statement with that performance last night.
While it is certainly not advisable to judge a player by one performance, I believe Gabriel’s display at Wembley can be the stepping stone to further improvement. When it comes to ability, the 26-year-old is blessed with ample pace, aerial prowess and a dogged determination on the pitch and perhaps one area that requires improvement is his positioning, but I believe that will improve once he becomes more comfortable with the language. Nonetheless, Gabriel is another player that has benefited as a result of the new system and I hope to see him scale greater heights in an Arsenal shirt.