Guillem Balague is the man in the know when it comes to Spanish football, and the Sky Sports pundit has had his say on Arsenal.com regarding our latest signing Gabriel Paulista.
La Liga’s expert claims Gabriel reminds him of our one time captain Thomas Vermaelen, and shares a number of traits with the Belgian defender.
“He’s very fast, that’s the first thing,” he said.
“I was talking to Marcelino Garcia Toral, manager of Villarreal, and he was saying that he’s improved a lot tactically because he was very raw.
“That means that he’s a great listener and he is willing to become a better player. There’s still room for improvement but he’s very brave, strong in the air and anticipates really cleverly.
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“I was saying to Marcelino that he reminds me of Thomas Vermaelen but he said that Gabriel was more like Laurent Koscielny. Like both of them, when he first arrived at the club he was a bit light and had to get stronger, but in terms of centre-back qualities, he’s there.”
Villarreal boss Marcelino clearly disagrees, claiming he is more in the mould of Koscielny; and looking at the Brazilian’s stats it is hard to disagree.
The 24-year-old will be donning the No.5 shirt, previously worn by Vermaelen during his Arsenal days. Gabriel’s success would largely depend on how he emulates the Belgian.
Vermaelen began his Gunners career superbly, combing solid cover at the back with a genuine and regular goal threat, but our former club captain became almost too proactive in his defending – constantly stepping up to try to claim the ball and leaving plenty of space behind.
Only two players have made more interceptions than Gabriel in La Liga this term, and the Brazilian is clearly keen to push up to try to claim the ball early.
Like Koscielny – and unlike Vermaelen after a series of injuries – Gabriel has great pace, and can recover well if unable to seize possession. His approach may be better suited to playing alongside our more defensive left back Nacho Monreal, who has improved at covering inside after his spell in the heart of the defence.
Gabriel is unlikely to see himself thrown straight in at the deep end, and may struggle to break the partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. If he can take his chances when they arrive however, he could soon find an opening.