Arsene Wenger dropped a strong hint that Arsenal's latest signing Gabriel Paulista was decided on the player's statistics.
The Gunners brought Paulista to north London from Villarreal for a reported fee of £15 million this week despite the fact he had no international experience with Brazil. Few fans in the Premier League could claim to have known much about the 24-year-old prior to his arrival either.
Wenger has a reputation for picking gems out of European football and the Arsenal boss has admitted he took nothing for granted before making a move for Gabriel. The Gunners purchased US-based company StatDNA in 2012, and Wenger could not deny he had spotted the Brazilian via their analysis.
The purchase attracted plenty of intrigue at the time as it it resounded with the 'Moneyball' story, based on MLB's Oakland Athletics, who have experienced tremendous success through thorough player analysis.
“I cannot tell you all but he has good stats,” Wenger told reporters when asked if the company had alerted him to Gabriel. Was that a yes then, Arsene? “It is not a no,” he replied.
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Ivan Gazidis led the £2.2 million purchase of the number-crunching company and Wenger has been sceptical of the efficacy of analysing the finite points of player's actions. While Gabriel may have appeared good on paper, Wenger said there was still a thorough amount of human involvement in the scouting process.
“Does this system find players for us? That is what we look for, of course, because it is difficult to watch all the games. But what I mean is that if the numbers confirm the eye, it gives you more.
“If a guy [scout] comes home and says: ‘I’ve seen a good player,’ you can statistically observe this player for five, six, seven games. You send him again, he comes back and says he’s a good player‚ the numbers confirm it, you can say the risk is limited. Though there is always a risk.
“We have our own system [through StatDNA], with qualities we think are important. After that, you have the attitude of the player. Because you can have good stats for a while but if you go out every night until six o’clock in the morning, it won’t last.”
This is the most open conversation an Arsenal figure has had about their purchase of the company, such is the secrecy over the deal. Wenger went as far to say the key stats the Gunners were looking for in a defender before a deal for Gabriel was eventually struck.
"We look at interceptions, defensive errors, winning tackles – what we call tackles is committing to win the ball,” Wenger said. “Set piece receptions, these kind of things. The most important thing is through the eye.
Gabriel is set to be named in the squad for the game against Aston Villa tomorrow but it is expected to start life as an Arsenal player on the substitutes bench.