Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have developed a fantastic partnership at Arsenal, and we have hugely benefited from greater defensive stability as of late. With the arrival of Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal however, could their partnership be at risk?
It was assumed that Arsene Wenger would be on the hunt for a back up this January, but looking at Gabriel’s stats there is certainly an argument to suggest he could slot straight into the team.
The obvious player to make way would be Mertesacker, with the giant German taking a lot of criticism for his lack of pace and mobility. He brings other qualities to the table however, and certainly has a few things in his locker that Koscielny doesn’t.
The Frenchman has always been the one to cover for his partner’s mistakes, with his pace and agility a huge part of his game. He has struggled with injury problems this season though, and it is not clear yet whether he has fully recovered.
It’s hard to judge centre-backs individually, and you really have to look at the partnership as a whole. Gabriel may develop a superb understanding with his new teammates, or he may find it difficult to adapt to a new style of play.
Although the Brazilian looks to be more in the mould of Koscielny rather than Mertesacker, he does seem to offer the best of both worlds in many respects. He offers pace, agility, and reads the game extremely well, while also bringing a significant aeriel presence to the side.
The former Villarreal defender looks capable of replacing either player if he can find his feet in the Premier League quickly, and could prove to be an excellent acquisition. At 24-years-old he has plenty of time to improve further too, and could be the future of our back line.
With our current pairing getting on in years, they could soon find themselves usurped by young blood. It’s far too soon to tell whether Gabriel Paulista will be the one to break the Mertscielny axis however, and we should be prepared to accept that he may take a while to settle in.