‘Gabriel signing would be big statement from Arsenal’ – Merson sees defender deal being ‘huge’

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Arsenal fending off rival interest and securing the signature of Gabriel Magalhaes would be a “big statement”, says Paul Merson, with the Gunners looking to put down early markers in 2020-21.

The north London outfit appear to be leading the chase for a much sought-after centre-half.

A big-money deal is said to be close with Lille, allowing Mikel Arteta to add another player of promise to what has been an area of concern for Arsenal in recent times.

They have already welcomed William Saliba onto their books this summer, with the 19-year-old arriving at Emirates Stadium after completing a loan stint at Saint-Etienne.

He could be joined by a highly-rated Brazil international who has been heavily linked with Manchester United and a number of other leading sides across Europe.

Merson is pleased to see Arsenal flexing their muscles and is looking for them to make further shows of intent on and off the field – starting in Saturday’s Community Shield clash with Premier League champions Liverpool.

The former Gunners star told the Daily Star: “The Community Shield is a benchmark for Arsenal to see how far behind Liverpool they still are.

“They could beat Liverpool and win the game. Of course they could. But that’s what Arsenal are - a cup team.

“On their day they can beat anybody. But how often is their day? Over 38 games it’s Liverpool who are consistent. That’s what Arsenal need to find. Consistency.

“If Arsenal sign Gabriel Magalhaes I think it’s a big statement because of all the other clubs that were after him.

“If Arsenal have managed to get him in without having Champions League football to offer, I think that’s huge.

“I like what Mikel Arteta is doing. But there are plenty of teams around them getting better as well.

“Chelsea have bought amazingly well. They are going to close the gap on Liverpool next season.

“It could be one of the tightest league title races in a long time. But Arsenal have a long way to go to get to that level.

“That’s why this game is a benchmark for them. They need to see how far behind they are.”