Arsene Wenger was delighted with his team’s performance in their 2-0 win over Everton in the Premier League at Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon and one player really gave him reason to be hopeful for the future.
It was a big decision and looked like it might backfire early on, but dropping Per Mertesacker to the bench ended up being the correct one. The Gunners captain was relegated to the bench and January signing Gabriel was handed his first start in the Premier League.
Early in the first half this looked risky as the Brazilian allowed long a ball to bounce and had him turning towards his own goal, Romelu Lukaku was in pursuit and was through on goal, but the £11.2million signing from Villareal was saved by the onrushing David Ospina and then a fine sliding tackle near the sideline from the Colombian.
Arsenal’s new number one also had to be alert when an indecisive header from Paulista looped high in the area, giving Everton a sniff of goal. It appeared as though the nerves were getting to the defender on his debut and that it could be dangerous against good opponents.
All this changed when Lukaku was able to get behind Laurent Koscielny and raced into the area, looking for all the world like he was about to get a brilliant chance to score, but Gabriel halted his progress with a perfectly timed sliding challenge and came away with the ball.
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From that moment on he looked a new player. He won countless headers, was quick off the mark, passed the ball well and, possibly most importantly, looked as though he relished the physical battle with one of the strongest centre-forwards in the Premier League.
Gabriel Eventually Settled In Very Well
Gabriel was proactive in the challenge and his game looks suited to the style of the Premier League. This was crucial after Mertesacker had one of his worst performances in an Arsenal shirt during the Champions League defeat, as it looks as though at least an idea of who his successor will be is required – Wenger was certainly happy with his new player.
“He had an encouraging performance overall. He was surprised by the intensity of the challenges once or twice but he made a great tackle against Romelu Lukaku in the first half. He’s highly focused, has a good concentration level and is quick,” he told reporters after the match.
Mertesacker Out Of Time?
It would be careless to get too carried away with one performance, but it looks as though Wenger may have pulled off another good value signing in the 24-year-old from Sao Paulo. If he carries on in this vein, Mertesacker could find himself on the bench more regularly.
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