Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted that January signing Gabriel Paulista has almost no chance of being bit for Monday's crunch FA Cup showdown, after suffering a hamstring injury that under normal circumstances should see him sidelined for three weeks.
Gabriel picked up the problem in last night's 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road, one that forced him out of only his third start for Arsenal after just 36 minutes.
The Brazilian international's adaptation to life as an Arsenal player is seemingly in full swing now his first injury setback has been identified, with Wenger conceding that 21 days is the normal timeline for recover when a player is forced off with hamstring trouble.
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Options for Old Trafford are reduced
After watching his side survive a late scare in West London the Gunners boss told GiveMeSport he expects to be without the £11.3 million January signing for most of March, but still found time to see the funny side in yet another injury update.
Wenger said: "It's a hamstring (injury for Gabriel). I don't know (how bad it is) but bad enough to come off. Normally he's out 21. That's 21 days not years."
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Zamora duel was baptism of fire
Wenger chose the QPR clash at the right night to try and untested centre-back pairing of Gabriel and Per Mertesacker, with Laurent Koscielny and his pesky Achilles problem overdue a rest.
Gabriel was given the task of marking Hoops striker Bobby Zamora early on and struggled to get to grips with the physically imposing forward, although that's nothing new for Arsenal defenders.
Zamora has long been a thorn in Arsenal's side but the Gunners coped better when Koscielny replaced Gabriel nine minute before half-time, able to use the Frenchman's pace to press higher and stop long diagonal balls threatening over the top.
Mertesacker must perform at Old Trafford
With every injury blow comes an opportunity for another player and that is the way Mertesacker has to look at the situation over the next few days, because if Gabriel impressed against QPR he was the one first in line for the axe at Old Trafford on Monday night.
Mertesacker will now almost certainly be back alongside Koscielny for a game that is Arsenal's biggest of the season by some distance.
The pair will get the chance to prove the defensive shambles against Monaco was a rare blip far sooner than expected, they must take it or Gabriel will soon be back knocking on the door looking to take one of their places, most likely Mertesacker's despite his leadership skills and strong relationship with Wenger.
Arsenal fans, do you trust Mertesacker to get things right at Old Trafford. Can a centre-back pairing of him and Koscielny cut it at the highest level? Let us know by having your say in the comment box below!
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