After some suspect defensive displays at Arsenal this season, is Gabriel Paulista really the man to add some solidarity to the Gunners’ back four?
The Brazilian centre-back signed for a fee of £11.2 million and joins fellow centre-backs Laurent Koscielny and Per Meteresacker at the club. It remains to be seen whether Paulista has been bought to replace one of the current centre-backs or whether he will only be a squad player. However, considering the rather sizeable fee paid by Arsenal, you’d think the defender should be challenging for a starting spot.
At 24-years-old, Paulista is a good age and certainly has the potential to improve further. In terms of his stats so far this season, he does not particularly stand out compared to both Mertesacker and Koscielny. The Brazilian has won more tackles, made more blocks and has the highest Squawka performance score out of the three defenders this season. Although this may seem impressive, Koscielny has only played 12 games so far this campaign while Paulista has played 19. The Brazilian has also made two errors that have led to goals in 2014/15 while the current centre-backs at Arsenal have not been directly at fault for any goals conceded this season.
Paulista’s playing style is not a typically English one; he likes to play from the back, often making interceptions and reading the game, more of a Gerard Pique than a Ryan Shawcross. However, at this level, it may take time for him to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League. He certainly has the skill and understanding of the game to become a hit in the Premier League but it will be interesting to see whether he can provide real defensive muscle to his game, something that is vital in England when strikers like Wilfried Bony, Andy Carroll and Diego Costa are about.
Wenger has obviously identified Paulista as a player capable of making it in the English top flight. He has pace, a good leap and is composed on the ball, attributes that current defender Laurent Koscielny also possesses. There is no doubt that the Frenchman has been a good servant to Arsenal but it did take him a while to fully adapt to the English game. Although this may not appeal to Arsenal fans, the same story could take place with Paulista.
Usually, it is easier for attacking foreign players to adapt. However, foreign defenders who hit the ground running are usually few and far between. The likes of Federico Fernandez, Federico Fazio and Marcos Rojo have barely set the league alight since their summer arrivals and these are all players that came to England with good reputations.
There is no doubt that Arsenal are taking a gamble with the Villarreal defender instead of opting for a reliable Premier League performer like Winston Reid. However, he will be given game time and an opportunity to prove himself at Arsenal due to the lack of squad depth they have in the defensive positions.
Arsenal fans will be relieved that the club have finally signed a defender just so Wenger doesn’t have to play either Nacho Monreal or Mathieu Debuchy at centre-back when the club suffers another inevitable injury crisis. Instead, Paulista will be the option in the heart of defence.
To suggest that he is the answer to Arsenal’s defensive problems would be quite premature. However, it represents a step in the right direction for the club and now it is up to Paulista to prove that he is good enough to play at the top level.