The Gunners decided to bolster their defensive ranks during the January transfer window by bringing in Brazilian ace Gabriel from La Liga outfit Villarreal.
It was a signing which was greeted with approval by Premier League observers and fans at the Emirates alike as Gabriel adds strength in depth and is relatively versatile.
However, he is a central defender first and foremost, and the big question now is whether the former Vitoria youth prodigy is actually better than Arsene Wenger’s current first-team centre-backs.
Koscielny and Mertesacker have built up an excellent relationship in recent seasons and the duo were once again at the top of their game as the Gunners defeated Crystal Palace 2-1 on Saturday.
“Overall I still must say that our central defenders played very well today against a very direct and a very physical game at the back,” Wenger told the Daily Mail in praise of his defenders.
|Interceptions||Effective Clearances||Aerial Duels Won||Ball Recoveries||Mins Played|
As per the table provided by Opta Stats, the duo came under strong Palace pressure especially in the second-half and stood firm in order to hold on to the three points.
Combined, the defenders recorded a whopping 35 effective clearances and won their fair share of aerial duels in the face of long, direct passes from deep.
Aside from the impressive figures, the little and large type pairing complement each other’s games well with Mertesacker using his height as his forte whereas Koscielny plays more of a sweeper role.
There seems no reason to disrupt that partnership unless injuries strike, leaving the prospect of Gabriel being restricted to merely cup appearances and a place on the bench during the league campaign.
The Brazilian will get his chances and when he does he will need to prove to his boss that he can offer something different – or better – than the number one centre-back pairing is currently providing.