Laurent Koscielny is an injury doubt for Arsenal’s match with Stoke this weekend, but his lost may not be as big an issue as it has been in the past because of the development of Gabriel Paulista.
The Brazilian was third choice in the Arsenal pecking order at the beginning of the season, with regular centre-back duo Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny preferred to the 24-year-old and rightly so. Mertsesacker and Koscielny have been Arsene Wenger’s first choice defensive pairing over the previous two seasons, so it was little shock that the Frenchman kept with the duo at the beginning of the current campaign.
However, prior to the 0-0 draw with Liverpool, Mertesacker succumbed to illness, while Koscielny missed out with a minor back problem as Wenger was forced to field a makeshift centre-back pairing in the form of Gabriel and youngster Calum Chambers. It was the first time the duo lined up alongside one another in the Premier League and it almost proved costly in the opening exchanges as both players appeared shaky at the back. However, once Gabriel got his bearings, the former Villarreal defender started to look every bit the quality centre-back Arsenal signed back in January.
Gabriel followed that performance with an impressive showing against Newcastle, gaining a WhoScored rating of 7.83, though the Magpies’ lackadaisical attack owing to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s early sending off contributed to this. Nevertheless, Gabriel dealt with any danger he faced with consummate ease and, as such, is currently Arsenal’s highest rated player according to WhoScored, with a rating of 7.87.
An average of 3 tackles per game ranks only behind Francis Coquelin (4) of all Arsenal players, while 2.5 interceptions per match is currently the fourth best of every player at the club. With Koscielny (3.3) leading the way for interceptions of all Arsenal players, it’s feasible to suggest he and Gabriel have the makings of a strong centre-back partnership for the club, with Mertesacker soon to be the wrong side of 30. The pairing’s commendable reading of the game enables them to calmly snuff out danger, in the process helping build attacks from the back.
Forest have been destroyed writing about the Gunners lack of activity in the summer transfer window. But if Arsenal fans see the likes of Gabriel develop into a first team regular, maybe those transfer stories will end up needing to be rewritten,