Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith believes Gabriel Magalhaes has been the club’s ‘unsung hero’ this season and has likened Thomas Partey to Patrick Vieira after a promising full debut against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League.
The Gunners have already lost to last year’s champions and runners-up, Liverpool and Manchester City, in the Premier League this season but could go as high as second in the table with a victory over Leicester this weekend.
Mikel Arteta made it clear he was keen to strengthen at centre-back at the start of the summer transfer window and Gabriel has impressed at the heart of Arsenal’s defence since his £27million move from Lille.
The Brazilian was named Arsenal’s Player of the Month for September and is expected to be named in Arteta’s starting XI for the fifth successive game on Sunday evening.
‘I want to mention Gabriel, something of an unsung hero since arriving this summer,’ Arsenal hero Smith said in his Evening Standard column.
‘He is one of those central defenders you do not always notice, thanks to his positioning and anticipation. Because of that, he will often get his body in the way or head on the ball — something proper defenders always enjoy.
‘A great athlete, he covers the ground beautifully, which should come in handy with Vardy around. And at 22, the Brazilian will only get better.
‘The early signs suggest he will be around for a while.’
Marquee summer signing Partey made his first start in Arsenal colours as the north London club came from behind to beat Rapid Vienna in midweek.
The Ghanaian shone as the anchor in Arsenal’s midfield and received special praise from head coach Arteta, as well as club legends Martin Keown and Ray Parlour.
‘There was nothing sloppy about Thomas Partey, though. He hardly put a foot wrong in a performance that showcased an impressive passing range that should encourage anyone in front to keep making runs.
‘Without wishing to get carried away, the way he bossed the game, Partey brought back memories of Patrick Vieira.
‘For the first time since the majestic Frenchman’s time, the Gunners may now boast a dominant force in the middle of the park who can change a game as well as mix it physically.’