26 January 2015

Gabriel Paulista received work-permit approval from Home Office, deal done today?

In a move that all but clears the way for Gabriel Paulista to join Arsenal, the club have received formal approval for his work-permit, and he is undergoing a medical at London Colney. It looks as if a transfer free of £11.3m has been agreed with Villareal, and we'll be spared the long, drawn-out sagas we experienced with players like Vela and Campbell, who ran up against tougher resistance to acquiring those work-permits in the past. The FA's Home Office was willing to set aside the "player of highest calibre" requirement that stipulates a player appear in 75% or more of his home country's competitive matches. The centre-back could be available to play as early as Sunday against Aston Villa., with Arsène stating that the deal could be done before today's FA Cup draw.

With other transfers having come through on appeal, such as Leicester's acquisition of Croatian Andrej Kramarić (who played in this weekend's FA Cup clash against Tottenham), it is little surprise that Gabriel was approved. Even if a player like Kramarić hails from an EU country, he had made only four appearances for Croatia, far fewer than the 75% threshold required. It could be argued (indeed, maybe it was) that Gabriel's experience in playing for Villareal, currently contending for a top-five spot in La Liga and potential qualification for Champions League play, has shown just as much ability as Kramarić, if not more, to "contribute significantly to the development of the game at the top level in England."

The questions that now arise are (a) how soon might Gabriel actually join Arsenal, and (b) would his arrival herald the end of our transfer-business? We'll likely know the answer to that first question in coming days, but the second one may go unanswered until the transfer window closes on 2 Februrary. With £2.5m spent on Bielik's transfer-fee and £11.3m on Gabriel's, we have to wonder how much more Arsenal are willing to spend in this transfer-window. Reports from a few months ago bandied about the sum of £20m, for what that's worth (the reports, I mean, not the sum). With tighter work-permit rules likely to take effect in the summer, we could see one or two more mid-range signings of squad-level players who offer depth now and perhaps development later.

After all, we've now sent out more players than we've brought in during this window, with Sanogo and Podolski loaned out and Benik Afobe sold to Wolverhampton. The deal for Gabriel might include a loan-out of Joel Campbell, who has struggled to find any time on the pitch despite numerous injuries to players in front of him in the pecking order. However, if anything, we've had a glut of attacking players, and it's been in defense that we've had to worry. Mertesacker and Koscielny are our only true centre-backs, and adding Gabriel would go a long way towards shoring up the defense now and in seasons to come, no small consideration given Mertesacker's age and lack of pace.

Fingers crossed, then, that Gabriel will be a Gunner before the day is out...