Gabriel Paulista will need time to adapt to the Premier League once his January move to Arsenal is signed, sealed and confirmed.
The 24-year-old centre back has already waved goodbye to Villarreal and comes with a high reputation in Spain, having made 50 appearances for his soon to be former club.
However, he will need time to adapt to the more physical Premier League. History shows that many foreign defenders have struggled initially to make an impact in England, before going on to successfully bolster their new clubs’ back lines.
Arsenal fans should taper expectations
Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic are the obvious examples of this. Having signed for Manchester United in January in January 2006, they notably struggled for the final six months of the campaign. However, they went on to become influential members of the United dressing room from 06-07 onwards. This continued until the end of their ill-fated 2013-14 campaign, when both left the club.
Martin Demichelis is the most prominent current example of recent defensive signings who have struggled initially. A favourite of City manager Manuel Pellegrini, the Argentine was seen as a figure of fun after making numerous mistakes during the first half of last season. However, his form has since greatly improved and when fit is keeping the £30 million major summer signing, Eliaquim Mangala, out of the side.
Patience is a virtue
A lesser known example is that of Dutch international Andre Ooijer, who was blamed for both goals that his new club, Blackburn Rovers, conceded on his debut against Chelsea. Having given away the penalty that led to Chelsea’s first goal, he was outpaced by Didier Drogba in the build up to their second. Despite his poor start, Ooijer established himself as a mainstay in the Rovers defence and played crucial roles in keeping the club in the Premier League during his time in the North West.
Importantly, some of Paulista’s soon to be new team mates can act as inspiration to him having undergone slow starts to their Arsenal careers.
The Frenchman, Laurent Koscielny, was sent off on his debut against Liverpool in August 2011. After taking time to settle in, the player signed from French club Lorient, had arguably his best performance to date against Barcelona in the Champions’ League in February 2011. He has since gone on be voted Arsenal’s second best player of the season during the 2012-13 season. Koscielny also scored the equalising goal in the final of Arsenal’s victorious FA Cup campaign against Hull.
After signing in September 2011, Per Mertesacker was initially an ever-present in Arsenal’s defence until he needed ankle surgery in February 2012, missing the remainder of the season as a result. Since his recovery from injury, he has become an influential member of the Arsenal dressing room and has reclaimed his place as a mainstay in the North London club’s back line. The ‘BFG’ is currently Arsenal’s vice-captain and has formed an impressive partnership with his colleague Koscielny.