Who Is Gabriel Paulista Arsenal Transfer Target Profiled As Wenger Looks To Bolster Gunners Defence

Who is Gabriel Paulista? Arsenal transfer target profiled as Wenger looks to bolster Gunners' defence

Who is Gabriel Paulista? Arsenal transfer target profiled as Wenger looks to bolster Gunners' defence

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It looks like Arsenal may have found a new defender.

Arsene Wenger has confirmed that talks with Villarreal over the transfer of £15million-rated Gabriel Paulista "are progressing quite well".

Former Leeds United manager Brian McDermott has been in Spain running the rule over a number of La Liga centre backs for the Gunners over the last month, with Espanyol”s Hector Moreno also watched several times.

However, Gabriel looks set to be the target who will board a plane to London this month — providing a deal can be brokered and a work permit granted.

Here”s everything you need to know about him.

Background

Five months after Argentina had dumped Brazil out of Italia 90″, Gabriel was born in Sao Paulo.

He came through the youth setup at Salvador-based club Vitoria, making his debut for the first team at the age of 19 in 2010.

Later that same year he appeared in the Copa do Brasil final as a right-back against Santos, which Vitoria lost over two legs, where he was tasked with dealing with Barcelona star Neymar.

After establishing himself as a regular at Vitoria and augmenting his reputation among European scouts in the South American country, he was signed by Villarreal for £2.5million in the summer of 2013.

Marcelino Garcia Toral slowly eased him into the side last year, but he has been an ever-present during the current campaign.

MORE: Follow the latest Paulista developments in our live transfer blog

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When Gabriel arrived at Villarreal last summer, he said he was keen to tread the same path in Europe as David Luiz.

Despite Luiz costing Paris Saint-Germain close to £50million and being a regular for Brazil, it may not be a comparison which pleases Arsenal fans who want to see their defence tightened up.

However, Gabriel meant he wants to impress enough to make similar strides with his national side, not that he necessarily cares to style himself on the former Chelsea defender.

In fact, he”s perhaps a nastier version of Luiz”s Brazilian colleague at PSG, Marquinhos.

Both are of a similar height and build, albeit Marquinhos, despite being nearly four years younger, has already had a taste of action with Brazil — Gabriel is yet to be capped at any level (hence the worries over work permit).

Nelson Antoine/FotoArena/LatinContent/Getty ImagesRonaldo (R) of Corinthians struggles for the ball with Gabriel Paulista of Vitoria during their match as part of the Serie AFormer digs: Paulista in action for Vitoria

Strengths

There was a clamour among the local journalists to know what type of defender they were getting when Gabriel turned up at El Madrigal.

"It”s difficult to speak about yourself," he explained, "but people around me say I”m really quick and good in the air.

"They also say I have a really good capacity to recover, both on and off the pitch. But I still want to grow. I can still improve a lot."

He”s definitely quick — both in his legs and his head.

Watching him against Espanyol earlier this season it was impressive to see how well he read the game, predicted situations and killed off attacks.

On the ball, as must be one of Wenger”s prerequisites, he’s able to play the sort of football which will be conducive to Arsenal”s style, but he won”t be confused with Franz Beckenbauer.

Gallery: Arsenal”s January transfer targets

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Weaknesses

Gabriel has noted himself there is still plenty of room for improvement.

While people around him may say he”s good in the air, his physique has often seen him at pains to compete with stronger forwards.

In the Premier League, where the style of striker differs to those in Spain’s Primera Division, he may have a slight shock at first.

MORE: All the latest Arsenal transfer gossip

How will he fit into his new team?

His flexibility across defence — he’s played in a back three and as a full-back, but is more used to playing in the middle of a back four — will be a welcome addition to an Arsenal side that have been forced into cobbling together several unfamiliar combinations at the back this season.

But in time, once he’s settled into life in England, the reported fee states he’ll be expected to become a key figure in the side.

Parallels can be drawn with Laurent Koscielny in this sense, who arrived at the Emirates at a similar age and with a similar profile.

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty ImagesZurich's midfielder Marco Schonbachler (R) vies for the ball with Villarreal's Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista (L) and Villarreal's Serbian defender Antonio RukavinaVersatile: Paulista can anywhere across the back

Did you know?

While serving a touchline ban last season, Marcelino housed himself on the opposite side of the pitch to the dugouts for a game against Getafe.

It was reported in the press at the time that his motive for doing that was to focus on improving Gabriel”s game.

The Villarreal boss has been overwhelmed by the 24-year-year old”s potential since he began working with him and has done everything possible to help him take his game to the next level — but on Wednesday he admitted he”s resigned to losing him.

READ MORE: Scouting report on Arsenal new boy Krystian Bielik

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