Gabriel Paulista: Stats my boy! Arsene Wenger reveals defender's excellent statistics played role in signing

The Brazilian could make his debut on Sunday

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger is ready to give new arrival Gabriel Paulista his debut against Aston Villa on Sunday, after revealing that the Brazilian was signed in part because of his excellent statistics.

Arsenal paid Villarreal £12m for defender Gabriel, who does not speak a word of English. Like all signings, he was watched by club scouts, but Wenger said the 24-year-old’s statistics were particularly impressive. Arsenal have their own US-based data analysis company, StatDNA, which they bought for more than £2m in 2012 and which judges player performance based on detailed criteria.

“Gabriel has good stats,” said Wenger. “We look at interceptions, defensive errors, winning tackles, committing to win the ball, set-piece receptions, these kind of things. But the most important thing is through the eye.”

The figures provided by StatDNA corroborated the evidence of traditional scouts. “If the numbers confirm the eye, it gives you more,” Wenger said. “If a guy comes home and says ‘I’ve seen a good player,’ you can statistically observe this player for five, six, seven games. You send him again, he says he’s a good player, and the numbers confirm, then the risk is  limited. Though there is always a risk.”

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Gabriel Paulista makes a headed clearance

 

Wenger, though, is confident about Gabriel: “What I saw was great quality for a defender – his level of concentration, he is a good size and is quick as well, he has great commitment in the challenges and he is young.”

The Arsenal manager rejected suggestions that Gabriel might be similar to his countryman David Luiz, with whom Chelsea lost patience last summer. “Gabriel is a different style to that,” he said. “He is a more typical defender, a real defender, who wants to defend.”

 

If there is one issue, it will be communication. “At the moment he does not speak a word of English and that can cost you goals,” Wenger admitted. “If you mix going forwards with going backwards, it can cost you. It is a position where you need to know your  partners and you need to communicate as well.”

Wenger tries to speak Spanish with Gabriel, who spent 18 months at Villarreal, after joining from Brazilian club Vitoria. While Arsenal have what Wenger calls “a Spanish clique”, with whom Gabriel can “communicate at least the minimum”, he could name only two Portuguese-speakers at the club: transfer negotiator Dick Law, and Joe, who works at the training ground.

Gabriel will have English lessons as Arsenal hope to bring him up to speed quickly. “It is quite normal that it is a requirement that if you go to a country you have to learn the language,” Wenger said. “We try to teach the important words. ‘Offside!’ for example. ‘Look at the linesman!’”

Wenger has signed a  Brazilian centre-back before. “When I was in Japan, I went to Sao Paulo and signed  Alexandre Torres, who was the son of Carlos Alberto,” he recalled. “And he was a very good centre-back.”

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