Still no official news re the signing of Gabriel Paulista which is a bit worrying given the comment by Arsene on the 25th January, saying the club was close in completing the deal: ‘”It’s on the line and I think we’ll get over the line tonight and tomorrow”.
But let’s assume Paulista will join the club, and ask ourselves what sort of CB he is and whether he is more of a BFG or Koz type of defender.
A good defensive pairing is of course crucial, and so are the triangular relationships: backwards with the keeper and forwards with the DM(s). Furthermore, the partnerships between the CBs and their nearest FB, as well as the whole line of four, are equally important. A good fit of skills and balance are paramount for a well functioning defence.
In an ideal world, we play one CB with strong organisational and leadership skills and one ‘first soldier’ type of CB. Adams, Campbell and Mertesacker are excellent examples of the former and Martin Keown, Toure, Vermaelen, and of course, Koz were/are all brilliant first soldiers. Two BFGs do not work, but neither do two Kozs…
I am a big fan of the BFG. He is a world cup winner and plays for the best team in the world by focussing hard on his strengths rather than letting his few weaknesses grind him down. This takes a lot of strength as it is so easy to succumb to the critical voices out there and inside your head. And in our society: at school, in families and at work, we love to focus on (improving) weaknesses rather than building strongly on core strengths and talents, and this is so often holding people back left, right and centre. In this respect alone, Per is a hero to me.
Mertesacker also loves playing for us and always gives his all. He reads the game very well and organises his defence excellently. We rely on this heavily, as was demonstrated again against Brighton & HA last weekend, when our defence looked brittle without him. Wenger of course knows about Per’s ‘lesser strengths’ for which he needs to compensate within the team. He will always need a fast, energetic, yet composed, strong in the air, and brilliant tackler of a CB next to him (and good protection on the flank and in front of him). Koz is such a player and together they make a bloody brilliant pair. Without Per Koz often looks out of sorts, lacking composure and control to some extent: together they are awesome.
We have missed Koz this season when he was injured, and let’s hope he will play most of the remaining games this season. He is a very fine first soldier as we saw once again against Citeh, when he played an absolute blinder next to the BFG, who also had a very good game. Monreal has been Koz’s main back up this season and he did okay, with clear room for improvement. I reckon Nacho has potential to become a decent back up, as I agree with Wenger that he reads the game well. But surely, this is a work in progress and we need him as our (back up) left back…
We also need a good back up for the BFG and maybe we could/should even improve further on him in the long term. This is easier said than done, as good CBs with leadership and organisational skills are hard to find, especially if we also want them to be fast, great tacklers and a beast in the air. I reckon Debuchy has quite some of the required skills and Chambers has good potential too; but ideally, we strengthen our squad for this key position this year.
So, what sort of player is Paulista and for which position has Wenger bought him?
Well hard to tell at this stage, and I welcome bloggers to give us their views if they have seen him play a lot in either Spain or Brazil. The ‘Whoscored?’ stats give an interesting picture.
Paulista compared to Mertesacker and Koz on key defence stats:
|Tackles per Game||1||1.1||1.3|
|Interceptions per Game||3.9||1.9||3.7|
|Fouls per Game||0.8||0.2||0.6|
|Offsides per Game||0.6||0.8||0.6|
|Clearances per Game||4.2||6.8||4.9|
|Blocks per Game||0.4||0.8||0.6|
These stats are interesting and indicate that Paulista might be closer to Koz than the BFG as type of defender. Gabriel has slightly fewer tackles per game but also slightly more interceptions than Koz, and he has fewer clearances and blocks per game, but this is not significant. There are quite a lot of similarities between the two.
Paulista has double the number of interceptions per game compared to the BFG, but commits more fouls per game – an area in which Per excels – and has significantly less clearances per game – Per is a lot taller than Koz and Paulista (185cm). Another important stat is that this 24 year old Brazilian has remained fit this season, already clocking up 25 games and 2147 minutes of first team football.
Of course, stats are just stats and we need to see Gabriel in action, if indeed his signing is completed and he is granted a work permit. Wenger might also have other plans with him: DM or even LB/RB, who knows?
But from what I can tell, Paulista will be Koz’s first replacement and might be used in other positions as well. I cannot wait to see him in action, and we should be all happy that the club has now strengthened in central defence: Bring on the rest of the season! 🙂
What do you think, fine fellow Gooners?