29th Nov, 2023. Champions League Football, Group Stage, Arsenal versus Lens; Gabriel of Arsenal competes for the ball with Adrien Thomasson of Lens

Gabriel celebrating last-ditch tackles like a game-winning goal while 6-0 up has given us life

The art of defending gets overlooked far too often amid the glitz and glamour of Champions League sh*tpingers, but thankfully Arsenal’s samba stopper is championing it for us once again.

No matter what level you’ve kicked a ball around a field, there is no single greater rush of dopamine than the one that hits after slowing an opponent down, reading them like a book and cleaning house with an absolutely inch-perfect, crunching tackle.

Seriously, even for non-football fans, we firmly believe there are few things in life more satisfying. Take your daisy cutter passes and your ASMR videos and do one.

As Arsenal avenged a defeat in France by putting Lens to the sword in a 6-0 thrashing at the Emirates, the world marvelled over their glut of goals and the array of individual star performances that came with.

Gabriel Martinelli was firing on all cylinders, Takehiro Tomiyasu was spraying around line-splitting passes like it was nobody’s business – and even Kai Havertz scored. No, really.

What’s the point in cruising to a 6-0 victory, though, if you’re not going to celebrate it like a man-possessed and savour the moment like it’s your last day on earth?

These kinds of victories don’t come around often, certainly not on a Champions League night, and thankfully Gabriel had enough in him to remember that when seeing out the game for his side.

The 25-year-old arguably stole the show in the dying embers of the contest with a moment that has made us smile and bawl with laughter in equal amounts at just how chaotic it is given the context of the game.

With Arsenal six goals to the good and the game trickling into the final minute of injury time, Lens found themselves marauding into the Gunners’ box late on.

That’s when Gabriel smelled blood and a switch flipped in his head. Desperate not to let go of his precious clean sheet, he jockeys Elye Wahi who – before he can even get his head up for a sight at goal – has been completely wiped out by the Brazilian.

Stealing the ball away from his feet with a perfectly-timed challenge, he then celebrates that tackle like he’s just had a shot of adrenaline pumped through his veins.

Things you absolutely love to see. What a properly unhinged bastard he is.

Poor Wahi, he only wanted a consolation goal.

We love a crunching tackle as much as the next person, but you could only get that kind of passion in a celebration out of us for an event as prestigious as an impromptu takeaway for tea on a Sunday.

There’s loving defending, and then there’s Gabriel. Never mind dying for three points, you’ve got to die to keep hold of a clean sheet and that war cry certainly suggests he is.

It’s little moments like that, though, which make a 6-0 win more special. Every player pulling in the same direction, every positive action heralded as a stroke of genius. If it was easy, every club and player would be doing it.

But they don’t, and that’s because Gabriel is a different breed. There are few built like him in today’s game, which is why we need to give him his flowers.

Even if he is a confirmed nutter.

By Mitch Wilks

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