Gabriel showed huge signs of improvement in our 4-0 win against Watford on Saturday.
Against Tottenham at the start of March, I said that Gabriel continues to grow in confidence with every passing game. Making a plethora of important tackles and shrewd challenges to fend off the opposition, his bad boy reputation has progressively lessened as he proves his defensive qualities – regardless of how raw you may think they are.
He gets the job done, and isn’t afraid to get stuck into tackles – something that will have helped him settle in England’s top flight much more quickly than if he were a small centre-forward, for example. Adapting to a higher intensity and getting involved in frequently physical battles can be tough for any player, so when I saw critics suggest he wasn’t cut out for life in England, I was aggrieved to say the least.
His English continues to improve, and communication – especially within a defensive unit – is important for a team’s success. It’s an under-rated component of how most sides perform under pressure, mostly because supporters assume players all speak the same language.
Against Watford, he was defensively effective and snuffed out danger whenever the visitors approached our goal. Alongside Laurent Koscielny in the heart of defence, you can tell their partnership continues to strengthen and it’s certainly refreshing to watch blossom.
Many would’ve feared for the defensive stability of the team, especially without the influential figures of Per Mertesacker as well as first-choice goalkeeper Petr Čech – both were among the substitutes’ bench. However, his succession of crucial interceptions (6) at key moments where a counter-attack was in the offing, as well as important clearances throughout (8) was encouraging.
The combination of both pace and power between himself and Koscielny means as a defensive duo, they’re less susceptible to conceding opportunities, which results in less chances for opposition teams to score. Watford themselves only managed two shots on target throughout the ninety minutes, giving David Ospina little to deal with, earning his fourth clean sheet of the campaign.
He’s still got a tendency to make a rash challenge but whilst he’d be the first to tell you that he can continue improving but at 25-years-old, there’s no reason he can’t maintain his starting spot.