We have confirmation from Arsène Wenger that Arsenal are well down the road toward buying center back Gabriel Paulista from Villareal. With Mertesacker and Koscielny the only two first choice center backs and with both players looking like they are carrying injuries, Arsenal desperately need another center half and Paulista fits the bill. But as usual with Arsenal transfers, the Gunners look like they are trying to get him on the cheap and he might not even qualify for a work permit. If I didn’t know any better I would say Arsène Wenger is just trolling you all with this signing.
It’s unusual for Arsène to speak about a transfer deal until it is done. On the verge of signing Mesut Özil from Real Madrid, Wenger once tittered “maybe we will have a little surprise for you”. I would have a hard time keeping my mouth shut if I was about to sign Mesut Özil for my fantasy football team, only Wenger knows how he kept himself in check while working on signing Özil in real life.
And yet Wenger was very open that he is trying to sign Paulista:
“The talks are progressing quite well, to be serious,” the Arsenal manager said. “[It’s] 50-50 at this moment, yes. We are talking at the moment; can we find an agreement or not? I don’t know. We are slowly progressing but there’s a chance. We are ready to pay the price we think is right for a good player, no matter what the price is. If we think it’s the right price we will pay.”
From what I’ve read, Paulista has a £16m release clause. The snag from Villareal’s point of view is that Arsenal aren’t meeting that valuation and Villareal have absolutely no need to sell.
Meanwhile, Arsenal aren’t meeting that valuation for good reason: the kid doesn’t qualify for a work permit in the UK because he doesn’t even come close to fulfilling the rather arbitrary requirement that he play 75% of his country’s international matches. In fact, Paulista hasn’t played a single match for Brazil. So, do you just stump up the money for a player you can’t play? No, of course not.
This is exactly the kind of transfer saga that drives a certain portion of the Arsenal fanbase nuts: Wenger is clearly looking to get a good deal, to fill a position where there is an absolute need, and the transfer has turned into a saga.
It’s all a little too much for some fans and I get it. On the day that Arsenal are announced as the 8th richest club in the universe the manager is bargaining to get a player he might not even be allowed to play because he can’t get a work permit.
This signing also excites a large portion of the fanbase and I get that too: this signing has all the hallmarks of Wenger uncovering another gem for cheap. Let’s not forget that when Arsène signed Koscielny it drove a certain portion of the fanbase nuts. “Who is this guy from League 2?” and “Why can’t we just go sign Gary Cahill? He’s mates with Wiltshere!”¹
Paulista is already being compared favorably to Koscielny by writers in the know like Sid Lowe. Apparently, he’s strong and quick, he reads the game well, and he likes to attack the ball. All the best qualities of Koscielny.
Villareal play counter-attacking football with Paulista an important part of both the defending and getting the counters started. As we detailed in yesterday’s post, Arsenal look like they are switching to a counter-attacking style and in that case Paulista could possibly slot right in.
But the sticking point is the work permit. Arsenal have tried to get around the work permit rules in the past and have failed every time. In fact, the Gunners still have Wellington Silva on loan, a player they signed in 2010 and who the FA originally awarded a special talent visa to, which they later rescinded. There were others before that, Petr Cech most notably. Arsenal couldn’t get Cech a visa despite the fact that he had played at every level for the Czech Republic since he was 15 years old. Chelsea managed to get him that permit two years later.
Wenger is known for being stubborn and only signing the Goldilocks players, players who are “just right” for what he wants at Arsenal. But this one seems like a hell of a gamble on not only the player but the rather capricious UK and FA work permit rules. Wenger seemed confident in his interview that they could get a visa and they seem to be putting in the work to sign the player so perhaps this saga is much ado about nothing and the player will step right into the Arsenal first team before the close of the window.
I sure hope so. I’d hate to see the state of some blogs if Wenger fails to sign this guy or worse, signs him and has to loan him back out for another 4 years to get him a visa.
¹I know his name is Wilshere but for some reason Brits seem to call him Wiltshere.