Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta insisted that Gabriel Magalhães was benched for tactical reasons for the second Premier League match in a row amid rumours linking him with a transfer to Saudi Arabia.
The Brazilian centre-back had started 73 consecutive league matches before the new campaign got underway, but has been a second-half substitute in their wins over Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace.
Reports linking Gabriel with a move to the Saudi Pro League emerged last week, with Al-Ittihad putting him on their ‘list of defender targets’, according to CBS Sports’ James Benge. The 25-year-old is ‘not for sale’, according to transfer reporter Fabrizio Romano.
Following Arsenal‘s 1-0 victory over Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday night, Arteta said that the transfer speculation surrounding Gabriel had nothing to do with his team selection.
“Nothing at all. It’s about the games that we were expecting, what I was expecting, how we wanted to defend and attack and our belief it was the best thing,” the Basque coach said in his post-match press conference.
“He’s played in both games, he’s helped us to win both games for different reasons. He was really good today, he absolutely dominated the box. He’s going to play a lot of games. That’s the decision sometimes.”
Arteta gave a similar explanation after leaving Gabriel out of the starting lineup against Forest. “We expected a game that actually happened and we needed somebody else in midfield to do what we did best, to have more fluidity and occupy certain spaces in relation to how they’re defending. It worked really well.”
Gabriel was thrown into the game against Palace after Takehiro Tomiyasu was sent off in the second half, replacing Gabriel Martinelli in the 70th minute. He was handed the armband after captain Martin Odegaard was subbed off late in the game.
Arsenal secured their second win of the Premier League season thanks to an Odegaard penalty, which was awarded after Sam Johnstone took down Eddie Nketiah in the box.
Read – Arteta admits Arsenal ‘suffered physically’ in win at Crystal Palace
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