It couldn’t have gone any better for Mikel Arteta on Sunday as his Arsenal side thrashed London rivals West Ham 6-0 in the Premier League. The Gunners emphatically highlighted why they are serious players in this season’s title race as they followed up their Liverpool victory with their performance of the season so far.
A double from Bukayo Saka and goals from William Saliba, Gabriel, Leandro Trossard and former Hammers midfielder Declan Rice ensured Arsenal cruised to victory. The north London outfit kept up the pace near the top of the Premier League, sitting level on points with Man City who have a game in hand and two points adrift of Liverpool.
They are firmly in the mix with 14 games remaining, with the likes of Martin Odegaard, Saka, Rice and Saliba proving key to the club’s title charge. But another star who should be held in the same regard as that quartet is Saliba’s partner-in-crime Gabriel.
The rhetoric is that Saliba is the future of Arsenal and one of the best centre backs in world football, which isn’t wrong. However, Gabriel simply goes under the radar and deserves his flowers. The Brazilian continuosly puts in formidable performances at the heart of the Gunners defence, and his partnership with the Frenchman has proved key to why the club have become one of the very best in Europe.
Gabriel’s all-round game has proved invaluable to Arteta and he hasn’t give some of the very best strikers in world football a sniff in recent seasons. But it’s not just in defence in which he is proving a nightmare for opposition.
The 26-year-old has grabbed four goals in the Premier League this season, with three of these coming since the mid-season break thanks to a double against Crystal Palace and an emphatic header in the thrashing of West Ham. And his goalscoring form has come at the perfect time for Arteta.
Following the 5-0 win over Palace, Arteta called on him and Saliba to step up with more goals, and both of them delivered on that front at the London Stadium. Arsenal are out in front when it comes to goals scored from set-pieces in the Premier League this season, and they have their centre-back pairing to thank for that.
If Arsenal and Arteta are to realise their dream of winning the Premier League, then Gabriel – alongside Saliba – are likely to have to play a huge part, just like they’re doing right now.
Arsenal are entering a key phase in their season, with Champions League football returning as they prepare to face Porto in the last-16 stage. The Gunners are fighting on the two biggest fronts currently, and Arteta will be desperate both Gabriel and Saliba stay fit for the remainder of the season.