Charlie Nicholas has told Sky Sports that Arsene Wenger needs to prove that Gabriel Paulista can become the defensive ‘superstar’ Arsenal have been lacking.
The Gunners have moved to bolster their ranks during the January transfer window, with a deal for Brazilian centre-half Paulista close to being wrapped up – with the Evening Standard revealing that he is due in London to undergo a medical.
He will arrive from La Liga side Villarreal, with Joel Campbell moving in the opposite direction on loan until the end of the season.
Arsenal will need Paulista to settle quickly, but he may need time to adjust to the demands of Premier League competition.
Nicholas believes that will be the case, with the South American a rough diamond.
He acknowledges that Wenger favours this kind of approach in player recruitment, with there a reluctance to spend big on proven performers, but admits that the Frenchman cannot afford to make any more transfer mistakes.
Nicholas told Sky Sports News HQ on Monday of the Paulista deal: “I think he’s still a bit raw at the edges, but gradually he’s getting better. Villarreal play an Arsenal-type game, a passing and moving game, and he can be exposed a little bit. He’s not a natural passing centre-back, he’s a physical presence.
“What Wenger likes to do, he doesn’t buy superstars. I know he bought (Alexis) Sanchez and (Mesut) Ozil, but defensively he likes to create superstars. He hasn’t been that successful at it in the last few years. This lad, I think he can groom and he can gradually become the right player for Arsenal, but he needs time.
“I think it will probably take him into next season, but Arsenal’s needs are that they need another centre-back in. They are shy in that department.
“They are lucky at the moment because (Francis) Coquelin has filled that holding midfield role. If he got injured and one other centre-back, like (Laurent) Koscielny, gets injured again, they are back in the same trouble. (Nacho) Monreal again had to play centre-back against Brighton, and that should not be happening at Arsenal.”
Injury struggles have forced Arsenal into the winter market, with the likes of Koscielny and Mathiey Debuchy spending an unfortunate amount of time on the treatment table this season.
Paulista may be the answer, but he has only been in Europe for 18 months after joining Villarreal in the summer of 2013.
At 24 years of age, time is on his side, but Nicholas is right to suggest that the Gunners need an immediate return on their investment if they are to secure another top-four finish and Champions League qualification.