Arsenal came up against AFC Bournemouth at the weekend, with the Gunners coming out on top in a 3-1 win at the Emirates. The score line may suggest a comfortable victory for the Gunners, but it was instead a very tense affair.
The Gunners took the lead fairly early on, with a defensive error from Bournemouth allowing Alexis Sanchez a free shot on a goal. Despite being one-nil up, Arsenal didn’t look comfortable and an injury to Mathieu Debuchy meant the Gunners were forced into making an early change. Debuchy had managed to make his first appearance for the Gunners in over a year, having spent the second half of last season out on loan. The Frenchman had worked hard in training and despite sulking with intentions to leave the club in the summer. However he was keen to seize the opportunity of Bellerin’s injury and Arsene Wenger gave Debuchy an opportunity to show us what he was still capable of. Jenkinson originally took Bellerin’s spot, but a poor run of performances made the Englishman look out of depth and thus Debuchy was given a chance. The Frenchman only lasted 15 minutes however before his return was over and subsequently, with no right back on the bench, Wenger was forced into putting back up defender Gabriel on the pitch at right back.
I’ll be the first to put my hands up and say that I’m not the biggest fan of Gabriel. He has looked promising at times, but his aggression and clumsiness make a dangerous combination at centre back. In his time at the club, he’s failed to really make a claim at becoming a Gunners regular and there have been suggestions that with Rob Holding likely to form a partnership with Mustafi and/or Chambers in the not too distant future, Gabriel’s time at the club could soon be over. However on Sunday he impressed massively as a stand in right back, especially considering the player struggles for playing time in his preferred position as a central defender.
One concern that I had when he came on, was the fact that Arsenal like to utilise their fullbacks as attacking options as well as their obvious defensive duties. You see the likes of Bellerin, Gibbs and Monreal flying down the flanks to support attacks, but with Gabriel you would’ve expected an awkward and clumsy performance in the right back position. Surprisingly enough he was strong in defence, had good positioning and supported attacks well, even getting up the pitch to get into a crossing position on the odd occasion.
Although it’s just a single performance and not one that we should base his current situation on at the club, I do think he’s given himself a little more hope of making more of an impression under Arsene Wenger. Some fans may have written the Brazilian defender off, but I for one was relatively impressed with what I saw from the makeshift right back, and if Jenkinson isn’t up for the task, I wouldn’t mind seeing Gabriel getting a similar opportunity again.