Mikel Arteta explains decision to bench Gabriel Magalhaes again

22 August 2023 - 12:08 pm

Mikel Arteta has explained his decision to bench Gabriel Magalhaes for the second time this season in Monday night’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace and rubbished reports he could leave the club.

The Brazilian was surprisingly left out of the starting XI for last weekend’s Premier League curtain-raiser against Nottingham Forest, with Ben White preferred at centre-back and Thomas Partey lining up loosely at right-back.

Given Arsenal’s rather nervy end to the match, which they held on to win 2-1, it was assumed that Gabriel would return to the starting line-up against Palace – particularly with Timber now sidelined with an ACL injury.

But instead Takehiro Tomiyasu, who was introduced in the 50th minute against Forest in place of the Dutchman, was brought into the back four with the rest of the defence unchanged.

Gabriel did, however, get a short run out at Selhurst Park following Tomiyasu’s dismissal and gave an excellent defensive performance off the bench, helping the 10-man Gunners keep Palace’s attack at bay and cling on to claim all three points.

With Gabriel being linked with a move to Saudi Arabia, there have been rumblings that his time at Arsenal might be coming to an end but Arteta has shut down those reports and insists the 25-year-old has a big role to play.

Asked if potential interest in Gabriel from Saudi Arabia has influenced his non-selection, Arteta replied: ‘No, nothing at all.

‘It’s about the games we were expecting, that I was expecting, and how I wanted to defend and attack and what I believed was the best thing.

‘He’s played in both games, he helped us to win both games for different reasons.

‘He was really good today, he absolutely dominated the box when he came on and he’s going to play a lot of games. But that’s the decision sometimes.’

Gabriel’s sudden drop down the pecking order has come as a surprise, with the Brazilian having started the previous 73 Premier League matches in a row prior to last weekend’s match against Forest.

He was also the only outfield Arsenal player to start all 38 league games last season, only missing nine minutes of action – Everton’s James Tarkowski was the only outfield player to play more minutes.

Reflecting more broadly on the win over Palace, Arteta said to Sky Sports afterwards: ‘I love to win like this, the way we played the first half against a team which is so difficult in open play, but we dominated the game and we conceded nothing.

‘After scoring the goal there was more spaces, but we had to play with 10 men and we didn’t concede with 10 men so I am happy with the team in how they responded in the game.

‘I am sure how much we want it, we see how they [Crystal Palace] come and held the team. The way they came at us, they were magnificent they changed the dynamic of the game.’