DAVID LUIZ missing the first few weeks of the season was seen as a blow for Arsenal – but it might just be a blessing on the evidence on show at Craven Cottage.
Luiz could find himself out of the side for longer than that because in Gabriel the Gunners could finally have found the main man they have spent a decade searching for.
Putting it simply, Arsenal now have a defender who actually looks top class.
The 22-year-old was only playing because his fellow Brazilian Luiz went down with a neck strain in the final week of pre-season, having been pencilled in to play in the middle of a three-man back line.
It left Mikel Arteta with no choice but to turn to his £25million summer signing from Lille, thrown in at the deep end right from the off.
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And how Gabriel shone on the banks of the River Thames, producing the kind of commanding display that has rarely been seen by Gunners fans since the likes of Sol Campbell and Martin Keown were in their pomp.
Throw in a debut goal and it could barely have gone better for the man from Sao Paolo, and Arteta will now go forward with huge confidence to implement his ideas.
The manager’s plans involve pressing high, but that only works if he can rely on his defence to stay strong and spot signs of danger early.
Such confidence can hardly be placed in Luiz, a player who goes from superb to stupid at the flick of a switch, and all the best laid plans can be blown apart in an instant.
But in Gabriel Arteta might finally have that unflappable presence he has wanted. Calm under pressure, assured in possession and physically a unit too.
There was early concern when he allowed a ball from Ainsley Maitland-Niles to run past him believing it would reach goalkeeper Bernd Leno, only for Fulham striker Aboubakar Kamara in on goal.
Leno saved him from embarrassment that time with barely a minute played, but from then on Gabriel adjusted to the pace of the game and didn’t put a foot wrong.
Remember, this was his first game since March when football in France was cancelled by the government, so he was playing ring-rusty.
If that’s the case, imagine how good he is when he is fully up to speed and sharpness?
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