Showing posts with label centre-back. Show all posts
Showing posts with label centre-back. Show all posts

16 July 2015

Arsenal make £15m bid for Juventus defender...

According to Forza, we've made an aggressive bid for Juventus centre-back Daniele Rugani only to have it rejected. The 20-year old spent the season on-loan to Empoli, playing all 3,420 minutes of the season without getting booked once. Rumours that Rugani might be brought in to mentor Flamini have been scuppered...for now. At first blush, it might seem odd that we'd pursue yet another centre-back when we have Koscielny, Mertesacker, and Gabriel, plus Debuchy and Chambers as makeshifts. Then again, Kos, Per, and Debuchy are getting long in the tooth, and at least a few of our signings have to be made with an eye to the longer term—that is, beyond the upcoming season.

02 March 2015

Gabriel answers the call; BFG is put on hold...

Amidst the glow of a win that sends us back to third place (and, apparently, increases our chances of a top-four finish to 84.4% if you believe GoalImpact), one stand-out performance was that of Gabriel Paulista, who made his Prem debut and overcame some early-match jitters to deliver a stellar performance. While he did very well in his first start against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round, he had to adjust to playing alongside three new teammates (Ospina, Coquelin, and Bellerín) and to the somewhat more-intense challenges posed by Everton. Don't let their table-position fool you—on paper, this is still very much the squad that briefly eclipsed us a season ago. Gabriel stepped up to deliver a competent if not commanding performance, one good enough to earn him a 7.56 in our ratings-poll. Was his performance good enough to bench the BFG permanently?

12 February 2015

Danke schön, Poldi; Auf wiedersehen, Per?

How do you solve a problem like Mertesacker? On one hand, he's become one of the most likable, affable members of the squad. His pairing with Laurent Koscielny had built a firm foundation for the defense, with the pair reaching in early 2014 an unbeaten streak of 31 games (ending in the ignominious 5-1 loss at Anfield). On the other hand, his Achilles' Heel has been two-fold—his pairing with Koscielny is only as good as Koscielny's Achilles, and his own pace is his weakest spot. We've known this since he first joined the club in 2011; the problem has only worsened as he's aged. With his bestest buddy Poldi having been loaned out to Inter, could we soon be bidding auf wiedersehen to Per as well?

28 January 2015

Gabriel Paulista sings, "I wanna be your Martin Keown..."

...or so sing Sleater-Kinney might sing. It's actually "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone", but in the signing of Gabriel Paulista, we might have something of a chant ready-made for the Brazilian defender. With his transfer from Villareal to Arsenal officially announced on Wednesday, we have a #5 who, in time, could remind us in his own way of other famous defenders to wear the number, namely, Martin Keown, to whom Gabriel offers more than a passing resemblance. His addition bolsters a sorely-lacking position and one that urgently needs updating. With Mertesacker sinking slowly (by what other means would he sink?) and Koscielny aging, we need to find centre-backs who can learn and in short order take over from them. In Gabriel, we may have found the heir-apparent to Koscielny, and, before him, to Keown.

Too soon? Aye, perhaps a bit too soon....
We've had a fair-few centre-backs come through the club since Keown's day, but none perhaps as memorable as he was: Campbell. Touré. Cygan. Senderos. Djourou. Vermaelen. Gallas. Would any among them, save perhaps Campbell, merit a mention in the annals of Arsenal's history? It's unlikely.

I hope I'm not making too much of Gabriel. He looks like he could become a very, very good time. As it currently stands, he offers something closer to raw potential than finished product, given that he's made only 37 appearances for Villareal in La Liga and zero appearances for Brazil at the international level. As such, it's hard to assess just how ready the 24-year old is to contribute. Perhaps the comparisons to Keown—be it based on squad number, position, or physical appearance—is a bit unfair.

A more-apt comparison might be made to Laurent Koscielny, another centre-back who joined the club at age 24. There have been hiccups, to be sure, but Kos has emerged as one of the lynchpins of the Arsenal defense. At age 29, he still wreaks havoc and runs amok, blending aggressive tackles and interceptions with increasingly-astute positioning. Kos might have another five years of top-flight performance still in him, but it's far from too early to start grooming a successor. Should Gabriel prove ready to deputize for him, so much the better.

Like Kos, Gabriel is a quick, aggressive defender who excels at dispossessing opponents and who, at the moment, relies more on that quickness than on wisdom to achieve his goals (or deny the goals of others). A great deal of Kos's game is based on his quick reactions and willingness to go in for a tackle, knowing that Per is there to mop up. So may it be for Gabriel and Chambers, who in coming years could gradually assume the burden that the Kos-Per pairing has shouldered. Chambers could play Per to Gabriel's Kos, playing the more-conservative role in support of Gabriel's marauding forays in the middle of the pitch.

Long story short, Gabriel might not be quite ready to slot in for Kos, but he brings a skill-set and mentality that suggests that, once Kos starts to straggle, he'll be chomping at the bit to shoulder the load. Heck, he may even be ready for a run-out on Sunday against Aston Villa—if the game is in hand.

23 January 2015

Is Koscielny the best defender in the Prem? Vote him in!

Kos. Kozza. Boscielny. We all know him, many of us love him. He wants his own song (I've suggested borrowing from Gogol Bordello's "Start Wearing Purple", in homage to Kos's contributions to saving an accordion factory. He's been vital to our fortunes, whether it's been through bossing people of a certain persuasion or scoring crucial goals late in matches. In the current squad, he is without doubt or best defender. Where, however, does he rank in the Prem? Is he in the top five? ESPN seems to think so, and I don't mind encouraging Gooners to engage in a little ballot-stuffing. First, though, let me make my case for why this is more than shameless hucksterism on behalf of a beloved Gunner...

20 January 2015

"Welcome" to Arsenal, Gabriel Paulista?

Apparently, a deal is done that would bring Brazlian centre-back Gabriel Paulista from Villareal to Arsenal with an initial free of around £6m and rising to above £10m, while Villareal holod out for an offer that would meet a release-clause of some £15.25m. Spains's Cadena Ser reported the news earlier on Tuesday, but, of course, nothing more official has emerged. For what it's worth, Cadena Ser is Spain's oldest and largest (by audience-share) radio network, and its reputation for reliability seems to fall somewhere between The Sun and The Independent. The story does pass various versions of the smell-test. Relatively unknown player to whom we've not been linked? Check. Technical skills and versatility? Check. Dithering and dickering over transfer-fees? Check. And mate.