Gabriel is the ‘New Keown’ and his partnership with Koscielny is the future


Anyone who has watched Arsenal over the last 30 years will read the title of the blog and think one of two things I suspect. They may think and correctly, that is a huge compliment for Arsenal’s newest central defender and they may also consider the compliment a tad premature.

A True Arsenal Legend

However having deputised superbly for Arsenal pitch captain Per Mertesacker the Brazilian stopper looks set to make his international debut in the coming week. Far be it from me to second guess the judgement of Brazil’s coach Dunga but he should know enough about positioning and defending. Defending was an evident downfall under Scolari and lead to a huge disappointment for the Samba boys in their home World Cup and it would appear the new boss is looking for different qualities. The traditional defensive qualities that Gabriel Paulista would seemingly have in abundance will serve his country but ironically from my perspective they are not necessarily the typical traits of a Brazilian centre back but they are certainly those of an archetypal English one.

Keown on Gabriel and Per

Martin Keown himself is on record as being an admirer or Gabriel and even last season was suggesting that it was he that would be the long term partner for Koscielny rather than the tall German veteran. Keown himself a swift defender has often commented on Mertesacker’s lack of pace and also his leadership most notably after the 3-1 home defeat to Monaco when Gabriel was preferred to the German for the next match v Everton:

‘I don’t think you can point the finger at one player after the Monaco game. It’s a big chance for Gabriel now, though. I think it could be a defining moment in changing Arsenal’s back four now, for sure.

‘Mertesacker, with the experience he has in the game, should have been calling these young players back the other night, the two full-backs were just drifting up the pitch and not coming back.

‘When he’s been left isolated one-on-one he struggles due to his lack of pace too. Gabriel is keen to defend so he’ll be relishing this opportunity to stamp a claim for a first-team spot.’


Seaman who marshaled our best defences has a view

Now once again I defer to those who know more than I about top class defending and Keown is one of the best I have EVER seen but the praise who Gabriel has not just come from that quarter but also from a colleague of Keown’s, the one and only David Seaman. Seaman in April also indicated in an interview with the Independent that he saw in Gabriel the solution to Arsenal’s defensive frailties as he assessed them:

“Yes, I think he can solve that problem [in defence]. With Paulista, he reminds me of a cross between Des Walker and Martin Keown, that’s who he reminds me of. I don’t know why. The way that he plays and looks just reminds me of that, but he’s had a few injuries and it will take him some time to adjust to the Premier League, because it does.”



The highest of praise from Seaman describing him as a blend of 2 of England’s greatest. The Arsenal Legend went on to suggest that it might take Gabriel a while to get used to the physicality and the pace of life in the Premiership but given that he had barely played for months his display alongside a decidedly shaky Calum Chambers against Liverpool was nothing short of spectacular.

His performance, in particular, in the first have when the team was inviting problems with poor clearances and woeful passing was certainly Keownesque! Superb reading of dangerous situations, brave blocks and headers, quick recoveries and perfectly times challenges, all the hallmarks of MK.

Fabulous v Liverpool along with Cech

On leaving the ground ultimately feeling pretty down the two things that prevented me being completely downcast were the performances of Cech and Gabriel. On the tube as I sat lost in thought I heard one bloke moaning to his mate about Arsenal’s display to which his mate responded – “Well one positive was Gabriel, he’s the new Keown!” I smiled to myself and though you‘re bloody right there. Sort of reminded me of the AwayBoyz lyric:

“I was down the pub the other night and my mate said to me I’ve see the new Ian Wright! I said to him, how can that be, he said to me Thierry Henry.”

Now I have seen so many people, including those whose opinions I respect. suggest that it is Per and Kos or Chambers and Gabriel because Gabriel and Koscielny are too similar. Whilst I understand that central defences are made of partnerships and blends, perhaps more than any other team partnership I just don’t buy it. Yes both are quick and have many similar strengths but that is hardly a problem for me and crucially the Brazilian has a great leap and will attack the ball.


They both seem like intelligent footballers and I do not see this as a Vermaelen and Koscielny repeat because unlike the Belgian Gabriel seems to have discipline and to just love to defend. Whilst our ex-skipper could defend he never seemed to ‘love’ it and treat it as an art form, as I know Keown did and Gabriel appears to do. Tommy would often rampage up the pitch without thinking, in search of goals and glory perhaps, leaving Kos isolated. In those days of course we did not have Coquelin or for that matter full backs who understood when to push up and when to sit. I have seen nothing nor have a read anything that remotely suggests that our new Brazilian wants to do anything but defend.

Tackles timed like this would have made Keown punch the air!

Per is not getting younger and he will never get swifter but as with Arteta what a fabulous player to have around the place and on the bench. However I personally hope that the Gabriel/Koscielny partnership is the future for this Arsenal team. I could be proved wrong as we have not seen the Brazilian over a long period but is it likely that Keown, Seaman and Dunga are all off the mark?

I look forward to seeing how he does in the next 2 Brazil games on the 6th and the 9th versus Costa Rica and the USA respectively. I hope he gets his chance, makes his presence felt for his country and comes back unscathed to face Stoke.

I will finish the blog with this Wenger description of Gabriel:

“He has got a good technique and he’s also highly committed and very motivated. If I was to sum up his qualities I would say that he is a very sharp player, and has a very good, positive aggression. He’s got quick feet, is strong in the battle, very good in a one-on-one situation and just fantastic in the air.”

I lied actually that was Arsene Wenger on Martin Keown in his testimonial programme but I bet you all believed me!

Wenger however did actually days this about his January signing:

“Gabriel will be a great central defender, believe me”

 I do Arsene, I do.

The New Keown 2015/16

To the tune of One Song – “Keown he is the new Keown!!”



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  1. Agree completely with this article and not just on the basis of this season where the two clean sheets we,ve kept in the league has been when he’s played. Not even with his performances last year in the league but also in la liga. I tend to watch of lot of la liga games and to be honest the forwards there are more technical there than here but he handled them majestically for Villareal in what was in the top 2 defenses in spain then. He has got all the qualities of a typical british centre back and is far better than Mertesacker who is a league two defender at best. I do though tend to agree that centre backs should be partnerships as witnessed with France where even though Koscielny is their best centre back, the partnership between Sakho and Varane is too good to let go. But we can make it work as Koscielny has become more and more discliplined with less aggresion. I believe with our titles hopes looking ever bleak, theirs could be a formidable partnership that might just give us a chance consirdering the fact we dont look good upfront.

  2. I always enjoy reading Dave’s articles. Cos he doesn’t disappoint. Paulista is going to be this season’s revelation. I suspect even Mertesacker knows that. I just pray that the season goes well.

  3. Great article Dave. Gabriel looks to be what I would call a ‘proper defender’. Not only that he looks a hard nut like Keown. I like that in a defender. In my view it is up to Mertesacker (when fit again) to play his way back into the team and be selected on merit. Will the manager see it like this though?

  4. A great article – really pinpoints Gabriel’s strengths.

    However, it may be optimistic to view Kos as a “long term” partner to Gabriel. As I would interpret this, his achilles is a ticking time bomb:

    Wenger is quite a gambler, knowing THOSE FACTS before the world cup, seeing Koscielny playing all those games and then casually waiting until the winter break to pick up Gabriel.

    We need another one like Gabriel – right now. Chambers has long-term potential but he’d have to make a Coq-like breakout in order to really be of any use to the team at centre back this year.

  5. Gab-Kos is the way forward. Always said (Pre-Coq emergence) our captain and vice captain are our two weakest links in the starting line up.

  6. First time commenter, but long time reader.

    Enjoyed your post as usual, Dave. I appreciate someone who looks for the positives in the side instead of moaning about everything.

    I tend to agree with your thoughts on Gabriel. He has hardly put a foot wrong so far – and when he has, they seem to be growing pains more than lack of ability. Wenger has a knack for picking up good defenders and making them great. I eagerly anticipate the results of a few seasons of elbow grease and polish under Le Prof.

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