Arsenal’s Gabriel Magalhaes has opened up about the ‘difficulty’ of playing without William Saliba last season, but insists their partnership is only improving.

The Gunners have the tightest defence in the Premier League this season, letting in just 26 goals. In comparison, title contenders Manchester City and Liverpool have both conceded 32, with City having a game in hand.

Gabriel and Saliba have been two of Arsenal’s standout performers as they aim to improve on last season’s performance. The latter part of the 2022-23 campaign saw Mikel Arteta’s side crumble dramatically, leading the table by eight points in mid-March, only to finish five points behind champions City.

Saliba’s injury towards the end of the season was a significant factor in the side’s late-season collapse. Gabriel has now revealed the impact of that injury and the amount of training that has gone into their partnership to reach their current level, reports the Mirror.

“It was difficult for us [when Saliba got injured] because we were playing every match together, and of course things change when other players come in,” Gabriel told TNT Sport. “For example Jakub [Kiwior] came in, he’s a left-sided defender and he came in on the right side.

“It was a bit difficult for him, but that’s gone now. We know we’re good and we must continue like that. We’ve got five games left [in the league] and we must continue together all season, because if we win those five matches, there are great things to come.

Gabriel continued: “Last season was our first one together. It was already good, we understand each other very well on the pitch.”

“This year I was sure that if we have people together it will go better, because we work a lot, we talk a lot, so that helps us. I think that this year, we also have a lot of confidence. We each have confidence in each other, confidence in any player that plays. So that’s good for us.

“Last season we were already good. William got injured, but we were good and we spoke a lot among ourselves. This year we are good even if we change our left back [or other positions].