Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista didn’t have the finest of performances against Manchester United on Sunday - he could be blamed for both of Marcus Rashford’s goals - but Arsene Wenger has identified the root of his problems.
Gunners fans no doubt hoped the Brazilian would form a partnership alongside Laurent Koscielny that would fire the north London team to the Premier League title, but Gabriel’s first full season in England has had its equal share of ups and downs.
The 25-year-old has started just 10 league games this term and Wenger believes a language barrier is holding him back.
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The Arsenal boss told reporters, via Goal: “I would prefer him to have better English. In a fraction of a second sometimes somebody can help you.”
Wenger signed Gabriel from Villarreal for £11.2 million in January 2015. That he still doesn’t have a full grasp of the English language is rather alarming given Arsenal cannot afford to concede any advantages to their rivals in their pursuit of the title.
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Against United the defender failed to make solid contact in his attempt to clear Guillermo Varela’s cross and the ball landed perfectly for Rashford’s to fire home.
Moments later Gabriel lost track of the 18-year-old, who headed past Petr Cech to double United’s lead.
Monreal can help
Both goals might have been prevented through better communication and Wenger insisted that Gabriel’s English is getting better.
“He has Nacho Monreal who plays next to him, he can speak Spanish. I believe as well he’s working very hard on his English and he’s improving quite quickly.”
Arsenal host Swansea on Wednesday evening and will close the gap to leaders Leicester with a win.
The Foxes were held to a 2-2 draw at home to West Brom on Tuesday, meaning a win for Tottenham in their London derby against West Ham will see Mauricio Pochettino’s team draw level on points with Claudio Ranieri’s.
It’s therefore pivotal the Gunners pick up three points against the Swans, who came close to halting Tottenham’s charge at the weekend but second half goals from Nacer Chadli and Danny Rose secured a comeback victory.
Crucial North London Derby
The north London rivals each play their biggest game of the season on Saturday when they meet at White Hart Lane. Arsenal fans will forget all about Sunday’s defeat to United if they deliver a blow to Tottenham’s title hopes.
On the flip-side, the Gunners’ chances of ending their 12-year title drought will be close to naught if Pochettino’s men deliver a memorable win.
Paul Merson believes Wenger must be sacked if Leicester or Tottenham win the title, bemoaning the Frenchman’s refusal to sign a single outfield player in the summer transfer window.
The former Arsenal player told Sky Sports: “If you're sitting there telling those fans - loyal Arsenal fans - that they don't need any new players at the start of the season and then you don't win the league in front of Leicester or Tottenham then I don't see how you can justify it.
“I don't see how he can keep his job.”