Gabriel Magalhaes says his first season in England was very much a learning experience, and that he now feels better placed to be the defensive anchor that the team needs.
He arrived from France last summer for a fee of £27.5m, but had a difficult first campaign, with some injury problems, a suspension, a bout with Covid-19, and more. He also missed out on winning a gold medal with Brazil’s successful Olympics team due to a knee problem which kept him out of our first three Premier League fixtures.
However, in recent weeks he has returned to add some defensive solidity, and he now feels more comfortable in general, and with the language, something he feels is a significant issue.
“I think, more than anything on the pitch, the language was the biggest difficulty for me in terms of adapting,” he told Sky Sports. “There are a lot of players here who speak French, Portuguese and Spanish but in this country, you have to speak English and that was tough for me.
“My English still isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely a lot better than it was and that’s helping me a lot.”
He also talked about his newly developing partnership with recent arrival Ben White, and the kind of defending they want to produce each week.
“Ben and I have each had a full season in the Premier League now and we’re getting to know it much better,” he said.
“We still need to connect even more but we are improving and developing with every game and that bodes well for the rest of the season.
“We want to be a very intense and aggressive defence.”
That commitment was demonstrated fully in last week’s North London derby win, during which Harry Kane fell over, and the Brazilian is keen to replicate that in every game, crediting manager Mikel Arteta for the clarity of his instructions.
“It’s very important to have that battling spirit, that desire to win, when you’re out on the pitch,” he said. “We want to win every game but also every ball and every duel.
“We saw the way the fans reacted to every important tackle and every good pass on Sunday, not just the goals. We need to have that passion throughout every game, every time the ball is there to be won. Having that support from the fans pushes us forward.
“The manager wants his central defenders to defend well, first and foremost. He wants us to know the moments to attack and the moments to defend. That’s what we are trying to do, and we know now when to drop deep and when to push up.
“Having good timing on the pitch is essential and he talks to us about that a lot.”
Let’s hope they can continue this recent spell of good form against Brighton today.