For Arsenal fans, having more than one defender capable of playing consistently well seems like an almost impossible feat, but it was once the case when Gabriel Paulista was at the club.
The Brazilian defender joined the Gunners in the winter transfer window of 2015 when Arsene Wenger realised midway through the 2014/15 season that the team needed more than two fully fit centre-backs in Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, and after a few games of Nacho Monreal and Calum Chambers covering in central defence, it was quickly apparent Arsenal needed reinforcements, and Gabriel was brought in.
Signed for £11.2 million from Villarreal, Gabriel joined the Gunners with a respectable reputation after a good half-season with the Yellow Submarine, and good things were expected of the Brazilian defender.
Gabriel’s first season with the Gunners saw the defender establish himself as a solid member of the Arsenal team, with his warrior-attitude and impressive last-ditch tackles the Brazilian quickly became a fan favourite in north London, but it soon became apparent that the centre-back might not last long in the Premier League.
First-team opportunities were hard to come by and there were reports that Gabriel had found it hard to adjust to life in England, which is why it didn’t come as a surprise when Arsene Wenger sold the defender just 18 months after signing him to Valencia for £9.9 million according to Transfermarkt.
It might have seemed like the right move at the time, but since returning to Spain, Gabriel has been nothing short of impressive for the La Liga side, manning a defence that has seen Valencia make it to the Champions League and subsequently the Europa League semi-final, where the Brazilian will face a reunion with his former club.
It will be a bittersweet affair for Arsenal. Whilst the fans will have no quarrels with Gabriel, the club will be kicking themselves for letting the Brazilian go after just 18 months at the club, especially with how poorly the Gunners have been defensively this season.
Gabriel has shown that Arsenal were wrong to sell him two years ago, and Unai Emery will be thinking why his predecessor didn’t keep hold of him just that extra bit longer.
Gunners fans, what are your standout memories of Gabriel? Join the discussion by commenting below…
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