Arsenal have been handed a huge boost in their bid to get a £15million deal for Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista signed and sealed before the January transfer closes, after he was left out of the Villarreal squad to face Levante tonight.
Paulista has been ever-present for Villarreal in La Liga so far this season, featuring in all 19 games and starting all but one of those matches.
That run will end this evening though, with his name left out of the official club communication which announced their 18-man squad for Saturday's game at El Madrigal.
The 24-year-old is neither injured or suspended, which would suggest that talks between Arsenal and the Yellow Submarines have reached an advanced stage.
Wenger has confirmed positive talks
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger was asked about the centre-back yesterday and confirmed to the Daily Mail that Arsenal are in discussions with the Spanish club, with the only genuine obstacle to the deal at this stage likely to be complications with securing a work permit.
Rules change this summer to allow any player bought for more than £10 million to be granted a work permit automatically, but that's not the case this month and Arsenal may well face a fierce fight to get clearance for vital defensive cover even if they can agree personal terms.
During his latest pre-match press conference on Friday the Gunners boss said: "The talks are progressing quite well with Villarreal for Paulista.
"We are talking at the moment and slowly progressing. We are ready to pay the price for a good player. We want the player and if he needs a work permit we will defend it now."
Arsenal are confident there's a deal to be done for Paulista and are hoping to negotiate a fee below his current £15m buyout clause, but it remains to be seen if Wenger can finally sign Thomas Vermaelen's replacement in a move which is frankly long overdue.