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Why are Arsenal interested in signing Lille’s Gabriel Magalhaes?

By Rob Worthington

Over the last few months, reports concerning Arsenal’s interest in Gabriel Magalhaes have been gaining momentum and it seems that there is now some genuine substance behind the paper talk. A few months ago The Athletic, who are notoriously very reputable, reported that Arsenal have had a long-standing interest in the Brazilian. More recently French outlet La Voix Du Nord, a French newspaper known to be reliable for Lille news, have reported a similar story. So, who is Gabriel Magalhaes and why is he one of our transfer targets?

Firstly, a little bit of basic background information about the player. The man who joined Lille in 2017 stands at an imposing 6’3 and the 22-year-old is known to be one of Ligue 1’s most physical defenders. The Brazilian, who spent the 2017-18 season on loan in Croatia playing for Dinamo Zagreb, prefers to use his left-foot and whilst he is physical, his ability on the ball is also impressive. He is very much what one would consider to be a modern day centre-half.

One of the key reasons Arteta is likely to hold an interest in him is due to the fact he is left-footed. Until Pablo Mari arrived at the club, Arsenal had 5 central defenders within their ranks, all of whom are right-footed. Thus, David Ornstein reported at the beginning of the year that Arsenal were looking to add some left-sided central defenders into his ranks. As Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis are edging closer towards their 2021 contract expiries, it is likely the pair will be moved on this Summer leaving Arsenal with four first-team centre-backs.

Adding Magalhaes would give Mikel Arteta another option at left centre-back and provide some balance to his central defensive choices. Some football fans don’t tend to realise that centre-backs either specialise in playing as either a left-sided or right-sided central defender but it is actually really important to have players who can specialise in each of these positions. So, the permanent signing of Pablo Mari and the acquisition of Magalhaes would certainly go a long way towards fulfilling Mikel Arteta’s desire to add some left-footers into his defensive ranks.

Another reason Arsenal are likely to be interested in Magalhaes is due to our strong relations with Lille. It is understood that Arsenal’s negotiations with Lille for the signing of £72 million man Nicolas Pépé were very productive and both parties were satisfied with the deal. So, as Arsenal these days tend to go about their transfer dealings through contacts from other clubs and fierce negotiating from Raul Sanellhi rather than extensive scouting, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Arsenal return to Lille this summer, just a year on, to attempt to negotiate a good deal for Magalhaes.

With the Pépé deal, Lille allowed Arsenal to spread the payment over a five-year agreement so a similar deal concerning instalments, which would make sense economically for the club given the potential negative financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic, may be attractive for Arsenal.

It’s also likely that Magalhaes would fit in quite nicely at Arsenal, socially and culturally. Noticeably, there are a few different social groups within the club. Magalhaes may fit well into the French speaking group of Alex Lacazette, Nicolas Pépé, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Matteo Guendouzi.

On the other hand, he may settle into the South American group of Emiliano Martinez, David Luiz, Gabriel Martinelli and Lucas Toreirra. Meanwhile, due to his time in Croatia, he may also strike up some good relationships with the club’s Eastern Europeans such as Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac. All these possibilities suggest Magalhaes would fit nicely into the Arsenal squad and that he’d be a popular figure. This is actually a concept that clubs consider before looking to make a move for a player.

These are the factors that make most sense concerning Arsenal looking to sign Magalhaes and are all factors clubs tend to think about before signing a player. To put it straightforwardly, his stats aren’t particularly impressive. He has only won 71% of his tackles this campaign, 67% of his aerial duels and has completed just 82% of his passes. All these stats are pretty underwhelming, especially in comparison to top tier centre-backs, although stats for central defenders are notoriously deceiving.

However, at 22, its likely Magalhaes is quite a way from the peak of his powers as centre-backs don’t tend to hit their prime until their late twenties, and often don’t even play regular football until their mid-twenties. It is likely the club see a lot of potential in him and think he could come on leaps and bounds at Arsenal. His French speaking skills also make him a logical partner for William Saliba, who prefers to play at right-centre-back.

While this article may have downplayed Magalhaes’ actual footballing ability, it is also clear that the Lille defender is a talented footballer. He’s reportedly attracted the attention of both Everton and Chelsea and factors such as ease of fit into the squad socially and his left-footedness wouldn’t be enough to persuade a club like Arsenal that he’s the man for the job. Whilst he may not be the world-beater we have been hoping Arsenal, it is likely that signing a world-beater will be impossible this summer so Magalhaes could actually prove to be a decent bit of business for us. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

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