All three substitutions made, losing 1-0 against newly-promoted Almeria and Daniel Aranzubia is off after a mind-blowing red card which only the referee seemed to have seen. Atletico urgently need a goalkeeper but in a flash, two hands tightly grip the sweaty gloves of Aranzubia and under the posts ready to stop anything in his way is the man himself, Gabi. Yes, he did not save the penalty – he was not expected to – but the fact that he was there ready to take anything that came towards him shows his sheer bravery and commitment towards his boyhood club.
He is not a one club man but it very well feels like it. Gabriel Fernandez Arenas, born in Madrid, is the captain of one of the most in form and underrated teams in Europe. By the hand of Diego Simeone, Gabi has steered the capital outfit to the top of the table and the Champions League quarter-final which is an inconceivable achievement considering the difference in economic power which the club has compared to some of Europe’s giants.
If anyone had watched Simeone play they would know that as described by the Real Madrid Coach Carlo Ancelotti, “he was tactically perfect, very focused and with a lot of character.” If one player embodies Simeone’s character on the pitch, it is Gabi himself. Physical, hard-working and tenacious is what describes the midfielder’s character. Yes, he has not scored nearly as many goals as Costa or Raul Garcia but that is not his job, his job is to be the anchor of the team and at doing this he is undoubtedly the best man in the park. He has made a total of 0 defensive errors this season with an unbelievable average pass accuracy of 80 per cent, now not many people out there can show off these stats. Furthermore, he is a defensive-midfielder, yet he has created 40 chances with six of these being goal scoring assists and 34 being key passes. Even though he is not out there to give the assists he still creates more chances than many attacking-midfielders and that further proves his polyvalence throughout the pitch, in defence or in attack.
He does not score goals but when he has to, he does, a perfect example of this is the latest astonishing goal around a month ago against arch city rivals, Real Madrid. A 40-yard bullet which rocketed into the top corner of Diego Lopez’s goal before he even knew it. Atletico then went on to draw this game which they thoroughly deserved to win but it was Gabi’s strike which sparked the momentary comeback. Another excellent instance where his work has won a match goes back to not so long ago in Seville against bottom of the table, Real Betis. Atleti were finding it hard to break down the Andalucian side and a curling strike from just outside the box from the captain managed to beat Antonio Adan and helped unlock the Los Verdiblancos’ defence. Atletico went on to win the game 0-2 with a lot of the credit for the victory having to go to the captain himself.
So, here is a man who has given his all for this club and will continue to do so as long as he is alive. He is one of the reasons why Los Colchoneros have such a strong defensive record and yet his efforts are overlooked by the viewers but certainly not by the players on the pitch as he constantly makes sure that his presence is felt, whether it is winning every 50-50 or leading his teammates to the finish.Atletico now depend on themselves this campaign as they look forward to the 8 finals ahead of them as they are led by Simeone’s prodigious son. This is Gabi, captain fantastic.