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Gabriel Magalhaes exclusive interview: Brazilian defender on Arsenal project and telling Gabriel Jesus to join

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It turns out manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu were not alone in convincing 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 really good guy,” the centre-back tells Sky Sports of his new team-mate. “Of course, it helps that we have the Brazilian link. When we were on international duty, we discussed his future and I was telling him, ‘Come to Arsenal! Come to Arsenal!’”

Gabriel utters the last line jokingly. But if Jesus already feels at home in his new surroundings – and his explosive start to life at Arsenal suggests he does – then it is partly down to the countryman and international team-mate helping him settle in.

“He is someone who is very focused and really enjoys working hard,” adds Gabriel. “He is here to improve the team and he is already doing that. He has come here with big expectations. He wants to achieve big things with Arsenal. I think he is really going to help us.”

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“But out 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 so difficult for us. We talk a lot and we understand each other well.”

Gabriel is speaking to Sky Sports under the baking midday sun at Arsenal’s London Colney headquarters. The mood is positive.

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Last year, they started the season with a tumultuous run of three consecutive losses. On Saturday, they face Leicester at the Emirates Stadium aiming for a second consecutive win.

“We are definitely in a better place now,” says Gabriel.

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“There were lots of changes at the club in the summer and it was important to make a good start. The determination and focus we showed against Crystal Palace were key to getting the three points.”

The themes of determination and focus resurface repeatedly during our interview and they are qualities 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 boost the level of quality in the squad. That goes for the new signings but also the players who have come back from loans.

“Everyone is here to help the team. Having more quality will help us get Arsenal where it needs to be.”

That, of course, means back into the Champions League.

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Arsenal fell agonisingly short last season, finishing two points behind Tottenham in fifth place. But their reinforced squad, now older and wiser, looks well set to deliver improvement this time around.

Gabriel, a £27m signing from Lille two years ago, will be key to it.

Last season, the Brazilian started all but three of Arsenal’s Premier League games, playing more minutes than any of his team-mates and making his presence felt in both boxes.

Indeed, as well as ranking top for tackles, clearances, touches and successful passes, Gabriel scored five goals, including three with his head, his aerial prowess helping to make Arsenal one of the most dangerous teams in the division from set-pieces and further underlining his 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 have definitely improved a lot since arriving here,” he says. “That goes for my passing, my heading, and various other aspects of my game.”

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Gabriel is grateful for the close attention he has received from Arteta and his staff – “I think the coaches have helped me a lot,” he says – and, while he opts to conduct this interview in Portuguese, his understanding of English has improved markedly too.

“The first year was a bit tougher, in terms of settling in,” he adds.

“That doesn’t mean the second year was easy, but it was certainly better. My English had improved by then. I was able to communicate better with my team-mates on the pitch.”

Arteta described Gabriel as a player with an “incredible future” last season and the initial language barrier did not prevent him from quickly becoming a leader in their defence.

Gabriel, while softly spoken in front of the media, is a vocal presence on the pitch who can usually be seen orchestrating Arsenal’s backline and directing team-mates in and out of possession.

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“I like having that responsibility,” he says. “It’s important to have leaders in defence who communicate a lot with the whole team. We are all improving our communication, I think.”

That improvement can be seen in the speed with which Arsenal’s new arrivals 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 widespread plaudits.

As with Jesus, Gabriel is playing a key role in helping the young Frenchman bed in.

“He’s a young player who came here at a very young age and then went out to get some experience. Now, despite his age, he is already playing for the French national team. That tells you how good he is. He’s here to help the team and he’s a very promising talent.

“He is a good friend of mine already,” Gabriel adds. “We speak French together, so that helps. He has added a lot of quality to the team and I think he has a brilliant future ahead of him.”

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Gabriel, of course, is well placed to offer advice and guidance to the 21-year-old having made the transition from France, where he spent three years with Lille, to England at roughly the same age.

“I have been here for two years now, so I do have experience that I can use to help him,” he says. “But at the same time, he can help me. He has a lot of quality and a lot of physical strength out on the pitch.

“We have similar qualities. I think we complement each other well.”

Arsenal supporters now hope Saliba will continue to blossom in much the same way as Gabriel, whose progress has led to reported 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 says.

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“I am very happy here. I’ve got a good relationship with my team-mates and I am fully committed to the project.

“I am convinced that, with the project we have, we can achieve a lot.”

It is quiet at London Colney, apart from occasional interludes when Gabriel’s team-mates drive past the area where we are seated on their way home, but last season the team’s every move was closely followed by Amazon’s cameras for the All or Nothing documentary.

“I’ve seen it,” Gabriel says, smiling again. He now hopes the series will help to bring the players and supporters even closer together.

“It’s good for showing the reality of what is actually going on in the dressing room in the day-to-day. People can understand things a little more and see how different it is from what they might imagine.

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“As players, of course we always play to win. But sometimes we lose games and there are difficult moments. Things happen. I think the documentary does a good job of showing the reality of what goes 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.

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Voodoo new to me – Waldrum

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In the aftermath of the drama that ensued between Nigeria and Cameroon during the penultimate qualifying fixture for the 2024 Olympic games, Super Falcons coach, Randy Waldrum, says voodoo is strange to him.

There was drama at the start of the second half inside the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Monday after a Cameroonian player allegedly attempted to plant ‘voodoo’ inside the Falcons goal post.

Falcons’ goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie, was in fine form as she stopped every shot in her direction to prevent the Indomitable Lionesses from scoring.

However, in the closing minutes of the game, Cameroon sent Annie Enganemben on as they were about to launch a free kick into the Nigerian box with claims that the player was sent on to touch the net in a bid to give Cameroon a saving grace as they were running out of options, and had to resort to diabolical means.

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In a video, the substitute, alongside another striker, were seen trying to run towards the Nigerian goal in an attempt to touch the net, but Asisat Oshoala took it upon herself to prevent that from happening. The drama led to the player being sent off after she hit Nnadozie in the process.

When asked by our reporter about the attempt by the Cameroonians to use voodoo during the game, Waldrum said, “Yes it is true.”

“I have never seen it before but our players wouldn’t let them in our goal to use it.”

The only goal of the two-legged tie came in the early minutes of the first half, with Esther Okoronkwo tapping home from close range after Jennifer Echegini’s clever footwork on the edge of the box.

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Liverpool Win Carabao Cup Title With Late Heroics Thrilling Against Chelsea

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In a thrilling Carabao Cup final clash at Wembley Stadium, Liverpool emerged victorious with late heroics against Chelsea, clinching the coveted title in dramatic fashiion.

The match, highly anticipated by football fans worldwide, showcased the fierce competition between two Premier League giants. Jurgen Klopp’s youthful Liverpool side faced off against Thomas Tuchel’s formidable Chelsea team in a showdown that promised excitement and tension.

Throughout the game, both teams demonstrated their skill and determination, creating numerous scoring opportunities and thrilling moments for the spectators. However, as the clock ticked down towards the end of regular time, the score remained deadlocked in a tense stalemate.

As the match entered extra time, the intensity on the field only intensified, with each side pushing for a decisive breakthrough. It was Liverpool’s star defender, Virgil van Dijk, who ultimately proved to be the hero of the night. In a heart-stopping moment, van Dijk rose above the Chelsea defense to head home a crucial goal deep into extra time.

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The Wembley Stadium erupted with cheers from Liverpool fans as van Dijk’s late header secured the victory and clinched the Carabao Cup title for Klopp’s side. It was a moment of pure jubilation for the Liverpool players, staff, and supporters, marking a memorable triumph in their footballing journey.

The match’s thrilling conclusion highlighted the unpredictable nature of football and the exhilarating drama that unfolds on the grand stage. Liverpool’s triumph with late heroics against Chelsea will be remembered as a testament to their resilience, determination, and unwavering spirit in pursuit of success.

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Boniface named among Bundesliga’s most skilful stars

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Bayer Leverkusen star Victor Boniface has secured a nomination among the most skilful players in the ongoing 2023/24 Bundesliga campaign so far.

After his move from Union SG last July, the Super Eagles striker wasted no time making an impact under the guidance of manager Xabi Alonso.

Boniface’s initial burst in Germany was nothing short of impressive, netting ten goals in 16 league matches.

However, his promising run hit an abrupt halt due to a groin injury, forcing him to miss the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations held in Ivory Coast.

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Despite his current injury setback, the striker’s noteworthy performances have not gone unnoticed.

The spotlight now shines on a particular display of individual brilliance during Leverkusen’s Bundesliga clash against RB Leipzig at the Bay Arena in August 2023.

In that game, Boniface executed a cunning feint, deceiving his marker into anticipating a right-footed shot, only to cleverly pass the ball with his left foot. Although he didn’t find the net, Leverkusen emerged victorious with a 3-2 scoreline.

Boniface shares the skills spotlight with four other notable players: Andrej Kramaric, Jadon Sancho, Felix Nmecha, and Xavi Simons.

To participate in the voting process, fans can visit the Bundesliga’s official website and select their choice among the nominated players.

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At the time of this report, Jadon Sancho leads the polls with an impressive 75% of the votes. Xavi Simons secures the second position with 17%, while Boniface currently holds 5%. Hoffenheim’s Kramaric and Dortmund’s Nmecha trail behind with 1% and 2% of the votes, respectively.

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