As the deal to bring Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal edges closer and closer to fruition, the time has come to contemplate which of the current crop of Gunners centre-halves will make way.
According to the Daily Star the 24-year-old’s agent has flown to London to attend talks with the north London club after receiving the player’s OK to investigate a move to the Emirates.
The Brazilian will join World Cup winner Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers and regular moonlighter Nacho Monreal (who has started more games in the middle than on the flank this term) among Arsene Wenger’s options in central defence.
Of the incumbents only Laurent Koscielny really has nothing to fear from the new arrival.
Arsenal – 11/20 to eliminate Brighton from the FA Cup on the south coast this Sunday – have won 59 per cent of their matches this term in which Koscielny has started, losing just 18 per cent of the time.
Overall the Gunners have won 55 per cent of their outings in 2014/15, losing 21 per cent – they’re a better team with the Frenchman.
Gabriel’s signing will see Chambers bounced down to the bottom of ‘natural’ centre-half pecking order, a worrying prospect for a player still learning his trade in the position at the highest level.
The former Southampton man’s plausibility as a top-level full-back is in some doubt after the liberties taken with him by Swansea’s Jefferson Montero at the Liberty Stadium earlier in the season.
As a result the youngster’s pitch-time could take a serious hit if the Brazilian comes in, as could that of Monreal, who is arguably an understudy to Kieran Gibbs when the fragile England man is fit.
However, the man with most to fear if Gabriel moves to the Emirates this January is probably the Gooners’ beloved ‘BFG’.
Mertesacker publicly admitted to struggling with motivation in the early weeks of the campaign and, although his form has improved, the veteran could well be bidding his first team place farewell if the deal goes through.
Having long suffered from a chronic lack of pace, picking the German either necessitates an overly deep defensive line or leaves the Gunners at risk on the counter attack.
Like Mertesacker the speedier Gabriel is very much a positioning-savvy reader of the game first and foremost, suggesting he too could act as the foil to Koscielny’s more blood and thunder approach.