Arsenal have Pep Guardiola to thank for denying major transfer exit to Saudi Arabia

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola may have done his former assistant Mikel Arteta a favour. (Image: Getty)

Arsenal and boss Mikel Arteta will be grateful for Pep Guardiola after his August decision halted plans for Saudi Arabia to sign key defender Gabriel. The Brazilian centre-back has been a bedrock of the most impenetrable backline in the Premier League this season alongside William Saliba, but could have left north London last summer.

Gabriel had curiously been left out of the first few starting lineups, with rumours speculating that he could be the latest big name to head to the Middle East after Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Sadio Mane.

In public, Arteta insisted that the reason for Gabriel’s absences were purely tactical, but The New York Times claim that Arsenal were expecting a bid to arrive from Saudi Arabia. They had even lined up Aymeric Laporte and Marc Guehi as potential replacements, such was their fear that the former Lille man would depart.

Guardiola had already made it clear that he was not willing to let Laporte leave for Arsenal and strengthen their title rivals even further, after already sanctioning previous exits to the Emirates for Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus.

Gabriel in action on the final day of the season for Arsenal. (Image: Getty)

And the Manchester City boss went one step further to help Arsenal keep Gabriel, by instead allowing Laporte to sign for Ronaldo’s Saudi side Al Nassr, preventing any desperate need for another centre-back arrival.

Once the transfer window had closed, Gabriel was restored to the Arsenal team and started all-bar-one of their remaining Premier League fixtures. The Gunners conceded fewer goals than any other English top-flight side and came within a whisker of usurping City, with their title race coming down to the final day of the season.

He did pick up an injury in the 2-1 win over Everton and was spotted wearing a cast during their lap of appreciation at the Emirates, but is likely to be fully fit for the start of the 2024/25 season, though fears will be raised over his participation at Copa America this summer with Brazil.

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Such is Gabriel’s importance to Arsenal after they managed to keep him away from Saudi’s grasp, the Daily Mail claim that they are set to offer the 26-year-old a bumper new contract in north London.

He only penned a new deal less than two years ago but the Gunners are keen to reward his importance to the squad and tie him down long-term, with another two years still left on his current contract.

The Gunners have successfully renewed the contracts of a host of their key players this season; Saliba, Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu, with Gabriel potentially set to join them after Guardiola helped Arsenal retain his services.