Gabriel was a key component in the Yellow Submarines’ defence as he formed a formidable partnership alongside Mateo Musacchio, helping the club go on a remarkable 18-game unbeaten run.
Villarreal’s loss is certainly the North Londoners' gain as his versatility at the back will prove to be an extremely useful tool come the end of the season.
It remains to be seen how badly his absence affects the Valencian-based side, but boss Marcelino Garcia Toral wasn’t hanging about when deciding to use the Gabriel transfer fee to make a swift replacement.
As reported by the club’s official website, centre-back Eric Bailly is the man sounded out for the task as he moves to El Madrigal for a €6 million transfer fee, signing a contract until June 2020.
Spanish publication AS explain the transfer for the 20-year-old in more detail, revealing that only 50 percent of his rights have been bought as his agent’s company holds the remaining 50 percent.
“Villarreal have secured 50 percent of the rights of the 20-year-old Ivorian – the remaining 50 percent being held by his agent’s company. The club was able to fund the operation after raking in 20 million euros for the sale of Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal,” AS report.
Bailly, a full Ivorian international, only featured in five La Liga matches for Espanyol this season as he had to make do with a regular spot on the substitutes' bench.
It remains to be seen whether he proves to be a capable replacement for the Gunners’ new purchase Gabriel, but the faith put in him can be illustrated by his hefty sale price for a player with little experience.