It turns out manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu weren’t the only ones who convinced Gabriel Jesus to join Arsenal. In June, weeks before the 25-year-old’s arrival was finally confirmed, his namesake Gabriel Magalhaes was also on the case.
“Gabriel is a very good guy,” said the centre-back sky sports of his new teammate. “Of course it helps that we have the Brazilian connection. When we were on international duty we discussed his future and I was like, ‘Come to Arsenal! Come to Arsenal!'”
“Maybe I had a little influence there.”
Gabriel says the last line jokingly. But if Jesus already feels at home in his new surroundings – and his explosive start to life at Arsenal suggests so – then it’s partly thanks to the compatriot and international team-mate who helped him settle in.
“He’s someone who is very focused and really likes to work hard,” adds Gabriel. “He is here to improve the team and he is already doing that. He came here with high expectations. He wants to achieve big things with Arsenal. I think he will really help us.”
The former Manchester City striker who stood out in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Friday is now one of four Brazilians – and, of course, three Gabriels – in Arsenal’s dressing room.
“Sometimes people shout, ‘Gabi, Gabi!’ and the three of us look around,” Gabriel said with a smile.
“But on the pitch, one is Jesus, the other is Martinelli and I’m Gabi. It’s a bit complicated for people, but it’s not that difficult for us. We talk to each other a lot and we understand well.”
Gabriel talks to sky sports in the scorching midday sun at Arsenal’s London headquarters in Colney. The atmosphere is positive.
Last year, they started the season with a tumultuous three-game losing streak. On Saturday, they take on Leicester at the Emirates Stadium aiming for a second straight win.
“We’re definitely in a better place now,” says Gabriel.
“There have been a lot of changes at the club this summer and it was important to get off to a good start. The determination and focus we showed against Crystal Palace was key to securing the three points.”
Themes of determination and focus resurface several times during our interview and these are qualities that Gabriel sees in new signings Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fabio Vieira, Matt Turner and Marquinhos, as well as Jesus. They have, he says, added considerable quality too.
“I think when new players come in they always raise the quality level of the team. This goes for new signings but also for players coming back from loans.
“Everyone is there to help the team. Having more quality will help us get Arsenal to where they need to be.”
This of course means a return to the Champions League.
Arsenal fell terribly short last season, finishing two points behind Tottenham in fifth place. But their reinforced team, now older and wiser, seems well placed to make improvements this time around.
Gabriel, a £27m signing from Lille two years ago, will be key.
Last season, the Brazilian started all but three of Arsenal’s Premier League games, playing more minutes than any of his teammates and making his presence felt in both boxes.
Indeed, as well as ranking among the best in tackles, clearances, throw-ins and successful passes, Gabriel scored five goals, three of them headed, his aerial prowess helping to make Arsenal one of the most dangerous teams in the division on set pieces and further. highlighting its growing importance to the side.
“I think the Premier League is definitely one of the toughest leagues to play in and I would say I’ve really improved a lot since coming here,” he said. “That goes for my passing, heading and various other aspects of my game.”
Gabriel is grateful for the special attention he received from Arteta and his team – “I think the coaches helped me a lot”, he says – and, although he chose to conduct this interview in Portuguese, his understanding of English has improved significantly. too.
“The first year was a little more difficult, in terms of installation,” he adds.
“That’s not to say the second year was easy, but it was definitely better. My English had improved by then. I was able to communicate better with my teammates on the pitch.”
Arteta described Gabriel as a player with an ‘incredible future’ last season and the initial language barrier didn’t stop him from quickly becoming a leader in their defence.
Gabriel, while speaking softly in front of the media, is a vocal presence on the pitch who can usually be seen orchestrating the Arsenal backline and directing teammates in and out of possession.
“I like having this responsibility,” he says. “It’s important to have leaders in defense who communicate a lot with the whole team. We are all improving our communication, I think.”
This improvement can be seen in the speed with which Arsenal newcomers have adapted, including centre-back William Saliba, whose outstanding Premier League debut alongside Gabriel against Crystal Palace, following three consecutive loan spells in France, earned him many applause.
As with Jesus, Gabriel plays a key role in helping the young Frenchman to bed.
“He’s a young player who came here very young and then came out to gain experience. Now, despite his age, he’s already playing for the France team. That tells you how good he is He’s there to help the team and he’s a very promising talent.
“He’s already a good friend of mine,” adds Gabriel. “We speak French together, so that helps. He has added a lot of quality to the team and I think he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Gabriel, of course, is well placed to offer advice and guidance to the 21-year-old who made the transition from France, where he spent three years at Lille, to England at around the same age.
I am very happy here. I have good relations with my teammates and I am fully involved in the project.
“I’ve been here for two years now, so I have experience that I can use to help her,” he says. “But at the same time he can help me. He has a lot of quality and a lot of physical strength on the pitch.
“We have similar qualities. I think we complement each other well.”
Arsenal fans will now hope that Saliba will continue to flourish in the same way as Gabriel, whose progress has attracted interest from European giants Juventus and Barcelona this summer.
“It’s always nice to get that recognition but I’m really focused on Arsenal,” he said.
“I’m very happy here. I have a good relationship with my teammates and I’m fully committed to the project.
“I am convinced that with the project we have we can achieve a lot.”
It’s quiet at London Colney, apart from the occasional interlude as Gabriel’s teammates pass the area we’re sitting on the way home, but last season every team move was watched closely by the cameras from amazon for the All or nothing documentary.
“I saw it,” Gabriel said, smiling again. He now hopes the series will help bring players and fans even closer together.
“It’s good for showing the reality of what really happens in the dressing room on a daily basis. People can understand things a little more and see how different it is from what they might imagine.
“As players, of course, we always play to win. But sometimes we lose games and there are tough times. Things happen. I think the documentary really shows the reality of what’s going on.”
The cameras are gone now. But for Arsenal, that reality continues. Expect Gabriel, in particular, to approach Saturday’s game against Leicester with as much determination and focus as ever.