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 ($17 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 on Sunday.
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 trail fourth placed Manchester United by one point and are also scrapping with 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,” Wenger said.
“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.
“You always need time to adapt, especially in a defensive position because you need to know your partners.
“At the moment he does not speak a word of English and that can cost you goals, if you mix going forwards with going backwards, so you need to you need to communicate.
“We try to teach the important words, for example — offside or look at the linesman!
“But first and above all, we need a collective effort to defend well.”
– No manic Monday –
After starting 2015 with a dispiriting loss at Southampton, the north Londoners have reeled off four successive victories — two in the league and two in the FA Cup — to restore morale and give Wenger confidence that he doesn’t need to spend Monday’s final day of the transfer window in a frantic bid to land more new signings.
“If I wake up in the morning and somebody is stood in front of my door who is an exceptional player, I will open the door,” he said.
“Number wise, we look all right now, and quality as well.
“I always left it late in the past because we could not finish the deals before.”
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.
“We know we have some ground to make up and the fight around the top four is very difficult, the target is consistency now,” said Wenger, who hopes Chile forward Alexis Sanchez will pass a late fitness test on a hamstring injury in time to face Villa.
Villa manager Paul Lambert is also hoping for great things from a new signing after landing Scott Sinclair on loan from Manchester City.
The 25-year-old has made just 12 appearances for City since joining them back in 2012 but, despite joining a struggling Villa team, Lambert is confident Sinclair will make the most of his latest opportunity to fulfil his potential.
“I’m thankful we got the deal done because I think he’s a player with great unfulfilled potential,” Lambert said.
“In hindsight, maybe for his own playing career, the Manchester City move was not a good one for him.
“I’m pretty sure he will have learnt a lot in football terms from it. Now’s the time he can kick on and get his career up and running.”
Photo Credits : AFP