Gabriel, who moved to Valencia over the summer, thinks he deserved more chances at Arsenal.
The Brazilian talked to Sky Sports about his time with the Gunners, and explained that he never felt like Wenger’s first choice in the team, even when he was playing. He said (via Daily Star): “I deserved more of an opportunity. Sometimes I played because my team-mates were injured.
“I did play and sometimes even after playing well, I’d go home sad, given that I was only playing because my team-mate was injured. I don’t think I deserved that. I think I had the ability to play and to start games because I deserved to do so, or because I did well in training, but that didn’t happen.”
Gabriel also thinks he was made a bit of a scapegoat when the team performed poorly, with good showings quickly forgotten as soon as he made a mistake: “Sometimes I’d play three or four games and if Arsenal lost, I’d be dropped and everyone on the outside would say, ‘It’s Gabriel’s fault’.
“That wasn’t good for me. People thought, ‘When that guy plays, Arsenal always lose.’ When [Hector] Bellerin got injured, I played at right-back and Arsenal started to lose.
“I think I played in four or five games en route to the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City and I played brilliantly in that game. I played really well and I received plenty of praise. Then I think we faced Tottenham away and lost, I gave away a penalty in that game and lost my place in the team. I didn’t play again.”
You can understand where the 26-year-old is coming from. The Arsenal fanbase flipped back and forth between praise and criticism more often with him than with almost anyone else. However, I’d argue that was fairly consistent with how Gabriel played.
As he mentions, he played very well against Manchester City, and deservedly earned a lot of praise. But the next game he conceded a needless penalty against Spurs of all sides. As a defender, you have to avoid major mistakes for more than just one game.
As well as Gabriel could play at times, he always had those mistakes in him, especially in the big games.
The way Marcus Rashford dominated him on the youngster’s league debut and the red card against Chelsea and subsequent ban when he refused to leave the pitch are just two instances of times he lost his cool. If Gabriel had shown more composure in key moments I’m sure the fans would’ve become a lot more attached to him.
Ultimately, he helped the Gunners to another FA Cup win, and for that I think we’re all grateful, but putting him in the first-choice eleven at Arsenal would have been too great a risk.