Guillem Balague is a Spanish football expert who knows Gabriel's talent better than most - and he gave us an insight into Arsenal's new signing.

“He’s very fast, that’s the first thing,” Balague told “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.

He's very fast, very brave, strong in the air and anticipates really cleverly

Guillem Balague

“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.

“He also needs to improve on bringing the ball out but he’s got enough quality to do that and he just needs the confidence to keep working on it.

“It’s a step in the right direction as there is clearly a profile of centre backs that Arsenal want, and I think he will succeed. He’s an investment and is the kind of player whose value will only increase in the coming years.

“He’s had a very good season and it’s a really big blow for Villarreal to lose him. They’re going to have to get a new centre back and they won’t find one of the same quality.

“I’d say Gabriel probably has a bit of adapting to do at Arsenal but I can see that he will be at the same level as everybody else in a few months.”

Gabriel Paulista

We also spoke to tactical expert Michael Cox to find out why Gabriel's style should suit the team perfectly. 

Gabriel is a defender who should fit into Arsenal’s style of play nicely. A proactive, no-nonsense defender who plays on the front foot, he’s likely to make an immediate impact.

Gabriel’s style is summarised by one simple statistic: in La Liga this season, only two players have made more than his 66 interceptions.

Gabriel wants to play high up the pitch and sneak in ahead of opponents to win the ball quickly

Michael Cox

“Some centre backs are happy to sit deep and soak up pressure before making headed clearances. Not Gabriel - he wants to play high up the pitch and sneak in ahead of opponents to win the ball quickly. In that sense, he shares some qualities with Laurent Koscielny.

“But Gabriel’s game is about physicality, too: he thunders into challenges, is hugely commanding in the air, and there’s a ruggedness about his game which is somewhat stereotypical of South American centre backs.

“He’s versatile enough to be used at full back when needed, but Gabriel is fundamentally an old-school centre back - albeit also comfortable enough in possession to start moves from the back.”

Gabriel Paulista
Gabriel Paulista

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29 Jan 2015