Gunners edging closer to sealing £15m Gabriel deal
Arsenal expect to complete the £15m signing of Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal today. Arsene Wenger (right) has been pursuing the Brazilian centre-back throughout the January transfer window and he confirmed last night, after Arsenal's 3-2 defeat of Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup fourth round, that a deal is imminent.
"It is on the line," Wenger said of the £15m move to bring Gabriel to Arsenal, "and I think we will get it over the line." Villarreal had confirmed on Saturday evening that Gabriel was on his way to London, with manager Marcelino saying that "neither the club nor the player could afford to resist Arsenal's offer."
Gabriel will be Arsenal's second signing of this transfer window, after they bought 17-year-old defensive midfielder Krystian Bielik from Legia Warsaw.
Arsenal's victory over Brighton makes them favourites to win the FA Cup, with Manchester United and Liverpool both facing replays against Cambridge United and Bolton Wanderers respectively. The Cup has opened up after Manchester City and Chelsea were knocked out on Saturday, and Wenger admitted that those results were a warning and a surprise, so much so that he had to double-check them.
"I think the results were a bit of sub-conscious warning for us, it woke us up a bit," Wenger admitted. "Yes, it was a Championship team, but the teams are prepared. I thought that the results showed our game today would be different. But when you first see the results you have to check them twice and then you think 'oh'."
Given the chance to talk up Arsenal's chances of retaining the FA Cup, Wenger demurred. "With yesterday's results you would be a bit cautious, the Cup is the Cup," he claimed. "I have to stop people from thinking what will happen because you never know. We will be one of the favourites, because Manchester United will go through and some other Premier League clubs will go through. But you cannot predict who will win it."
Theo Walcott, who scored his first Arsenal goal since 1 January 2014, was more bullish. "As defending champions it is our Cup at the moment," Walcott said. "All those teams going out means it is a massive opportunity. We believe with the team we have and the players coming back to fitness we can beat anyone."
Arsenal will find out this evening who they will face in the fifth round, which will take place on February 14 and 15. Their next game is at home against Aston Villa on Sunday and Wenger said he had "never" had this many options in attacking midfield. Yesterday he brought Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky back into the team, resting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez on the bench.
"For Walcott's first game it was encouraging, and Ozil too," Wenger said. "Maybe they dropped a little bit physically in the second half, but they were ready. Rosicky was wonderful." (© Daily Telegraph, London)