Player of the Week: Gabriel

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Step back, and again, and again, keep going, one more step. Now step forward. And stop. Welcome to Arsenal Football Club ladies and gentleman. That is essentially what supporting Arsenal is like, all day every day, every week, every year. Arsenal have become nothing more than a self inflicted pattern of disappointments and recovery.

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I mean the club is virtually its own AA support group. We keep coming back after setbacks, confess our sins, get a loud clap and some hugs, only to let ourselves and everybody down during the week and submitting to the cold, damp cloud. Arsenal were a disgrace on Wednesday, the most shameful display I’ve ever seen from a team that ships them out regularly.

There was no positive player, nobody deserved a reward. It could have been Chamberlain for his majestic goal but he poured water over it by giving the ball away and giving us one hell of a task in a couple of weeks. He can’t be held responsible for the other 90 minutes of football though, and the team should be disgusted with themselves.

Oh, wait, this has happened before, so probably not. They’ll win again and it’ll all be fine. And that’s what happened. But it’s not fine. This keeps happening. Do not be fooled. This Arsenal team doesn’t know which leg to stand on. Player of the Week is Gabriel.

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Okay, he had a manic opening 20 minutes into his Premier League début, but then that’s standard practise for Arsenal defender. Thankfully, he improved, and quite brilliantly. He gives me confidence, a hell of a lot more than Mertesacker. Our captain seems intent on throwing his experience down the toilet and seems intent on diving into challenges on the halfway line (seriously, what is up with that?) always leaving the poor and utterly deserted Koscielny to fail to clean up the mess.

That’s funny captain material. But our new boy has grit about him, he flies into tackles and takes the player with him. Great fun to watch. The moment of the match is clearly the Lukaku chance. The bulking Belgium powered through on goal leaving Gabriel chasing dust only to see the Brazilian expertly, really expertly steal the ball from underneath him moments before unleashing a possibly damaging shot.

Arsenal were saved, and the rescuer was the player who’d had the most anxious 20 minutes of his footballing career. Enter Gabriel. Welcome to Arsenal. But a sign of a good player is having a mare of a start only to finish as the most improved and solid player on the pitch. It’s promising signs from Gabriel. Not only is he at a great age, 24, ages ahead of him, he’s quick, and above all a slight bulldog of a footballer. Stark contrast to current captain and wobbly giant Per Mertesacker – who I like for his professionalism and the way he handles himself, but his talking on the pitch isn’t cutting it anymore, he keeps landing the team is dire situations.

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Gabriel could potentially perform an effective partnership with Kosicelny, both are speedy and technically sound, and both prefer to play on the front foot and intercept; they’re excellent readers of the game, something Mertesacker is, but due to his pace and frame any error he makes is often fatal. He can’t make up for it in the way Koscielny and Gabriel can; evidently seen in Monaco’s second goal.

Three of our worst players did themselves slight redemption on Sunday: Giroud, Ospina, Ozil. I’m less convinced about the Colombian than I was two weeks ago. There’s warning signs. Big red ones. He’s too floppy. Although, he did make some great saves to keep Everton at bay – as well as saving Gabriel’s backside.

Giroud will always have doubters because he will always fluff big lines. But he does seem to always bounce back with a goal, and he really enjoys playing against Everton, as does Mezut Ozil. Giroud took his goal well, and god, did he need it. Ozil is a weird one. I bet his statistics for Arsenal make wonderful reading for a player crucified every week. He makes it hard on himself, though. He’s slack yet efficient, something that looks great when it works and abysmal when it doesn’t. He created both goals on Sunday and was the worst performer out of the three against Monaco. Like I said: weird one.

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