EPL

Gabriel earns Arteta admiration after impressive Arsenal debut

By Sports Desk September 12, 2020

Mikel Arteta was thrilled with the performance of Gabriel as he marked his Arsenal debut with a goal in Saturday's 3-0 win at Fulham.

The centre-back scored the visitors' second, diverting Willian's corner in via his shoulder to make it 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

It was Gabriel's first competitive match since he played in a 1-0 Ligue 1 win for Lille over Lyon, with France's top-flight season having been declared finished and positions confirmed on a points-per-game basis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There was a positive maiden Gunners outing for former Chelsea star Willian, who also forced the chance for Alexandre Lacazette to open the scoring and set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the third.

Manager Arteta was particularly pleased with Gabriel, who completed a game-high 107 passes, especially given he had been out of action for so long.

"They were both really good," he said. "Obviously for Willy it's a little bit easier because he knows the league, the country and he's very settled here so I knew his performance would happen straight away.

"With Gabriel, it was a big challenge for him to come in because he didn't play any football for six months.

"Ideally, I wanted to give him some time because he only trained for a few days with the team. Physically, he has not played a competitive match for six months, so there was a risk of injury as well. 

"But credit to him, he performed really well, physically he was very good."

Arteta hopes Willian's display provides encouragement for Arsenal's substitutes, including club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, to fight for their place in the team.

"It's not for Nico, it's for all the players on the bench and the ones we had to leave at home. They have to raise their level and then the performance of the club and the team is going to improve, and this is what I demand of them," he said.

"I'm really happy with all the boys, the way they've been training, but selection is getting more complicated, as well as this new rule with only 18 players in the squad, it makes it very difficult, but they were really good."

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