Gabriel Paulista is hugely popular among Arsenal fans and it’s easy to see why. The Brazilian is an exciting no-nonsense defender, but more importantly we’ve conceded just once this season when he’s played the full 90 minutes.
The 25-year-old has been in and out of the team this season, with Arsene Wenger clearly still looking to integrate him into the side slowly. Combined with the fact that the manager has kept faith with the partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, and Gabriel has managed a full 90 just seven times this season.
When he has featured though, we’ve got an exceptional record, with the only goal conceded during that time coming during our 2-1 win over Everton. He’s played the full 90 during five wins and two goalless draws, including our recent 2-0 win over Bournemouth and the 3-0 thrashing of Manchester United.
0-0 v Liverpool
1-0 v Newcastle
3-0 v Manchester United
2-1 v Everton
2-0 v Bournemouth
0-0 v Southampton
2-0 v Bournemouth
Per Mertesacker looks to have lost his place in the starting lineup following his reckless lunge and consequent red card against Chelsea, with the German benched after returning from suspension. With two consecutive clean sheets against Southampton and Bournemouth there doesn’t seem to be any reason to return our vice-captain to the side, so we may well see Gabriel start against Leicester City.
There are certainly weaknesses to Gabriel’s game, and we’re obviously far more exposed aerially without Mertesacker in the side. The added pace the former Villarreal man gives us is massive though, as too often we’ve been blown wide open with Mertesacker left in the dust.
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The senior man arguably doesn’t deserve the amount of criticism he gets, but his shortcomings have most certainly cost us on occasion. When playing a high line we simply can’t afford to field Mertesacker, and the pace of Leicester might just kill him.
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With three top quality centre-backs we should expect to see some rotation, but this weekend hopefully Koscielny and Gabriel will continue at the back.