LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes his swoop for Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista could prove a turning point in Arsenal’s battle to qualify for the Champions League.
Wenger splashed out £11.5 million to sign Gabriel from Villarreal earlier this week and the 24-year-old could make his debut against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium today.
Gabriel’s arrival comes with Arsenal in the midst of a tense struggle to book their place in next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League.
The fifth placed Gunners are scrapping with Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham for the coveted berths in Europe’s elite club competition.
But, after a series of injuries threatened to undermine Arsenal’s already fragile back-four, Wenger is confident Gabriel will be able to immediately solidify his defence, even though he doesn’t speak a word of English yet.
“He is a specialist at centre-back and with the fixtures we have in front of us, that is needed,” said Wenger. “What I saw was a great quality for a defender, his level of concentration. He is physically able to adapt to the Premier League because he is quite a good size and is quick as well, has great commitment in the challenges and is a good age for a central defender as well.”
Arsenal’s 2-0 win at champions Manchester City in their last league match put them right back into the top four race, but Wenger won’t be happy until his notoriously inconsistent side produce that kind of dynamic display on a regular basis.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2015.