Despite questions over his suitability at centre-back for Arsenal, Gabriel was effective on Sunday when forced on after Per Mertesacker’s second-half injury.
The centre-back pairing of Koscielny and Mertesacker has been Arsenal’s first-choice for three years now, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that supporters and critics alike are unsettled when something disrupts that partnership.
Having joined the club last January from Villarreal, Gabriel’s tenacious defensive work and no-nonsense playing style made him a likeable figure at the Emirates within months.
Although he has admitted his English is still poor, at a time where communication is an integral part of the game, his defensive capability is understated in more ways than one.
Yes, he is raw and can be erratic in tackles at times. But as well as this, his tactical awareness is overshadowed by some of the individual mistakes that have cost Arsenal goals – and consequently points – already this season.
Case and point being, Manchester United and West Ham away. Against relegation battlers Norwich on Sunday, though, he did exactly what was required of him to help earn us a clean sheet in a game that could’ve gone either way.
Mertesacker’s presence is a calming one in the heart of defence but with Norwich pressing for an equaliser, Gabriel was the man making a number of defensive contributions when required to ease the pressure on Petr Čech following an eventful first half.
Koscielny was dominant in the air and equally assured when battling for possession. Gabriel meanwhile, made good use of his recovery pace to perform an excellently-timed sliding interception, denying substitute Dieumerci Mbokani the opportunity to equalise from close range.
As well as this, he remained firm at the back under pressure. Two tackles, two clearances and the aforementioned crucial interception were all important in helping Arsenal to all three points despite our lack of a clinical edge up-top.
It’s encouraging to see, as illustrated by the following image, especially for a player who continues to improve and hasn’t yet reached his full potential.