Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has criticised the club for selling Gabriel Paulista to Valencia in 2017.
The Brazilian was reunited with his former club on Thursday night as Valencia travelled to the Emirates for their Europa League semi-final first leg.
Should Arsenal have sold Gabriel? Five key things to know…
- Arsenal signed Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal in January 2015.
- The Brazilian spent 18-months at the club, amassing 64 appearances.
- Gabriel was sold to Valencia in the summer of 2017 after struggling to fit into the Arsenal team.
- But Martin Keown believes Arsenal should have kept hold of the Brazilian, with his aggression needed at the club.
- Gabriel was booked 16 times and received one red card in his 64 games at Arsenal.
In the build up to the game, Gabriel spoke of his time at Arsenal and the aggressive impact of his game, comparing himself to former Chelsea striker Diego Costa.
“The thing is, Costa is…” he told the Guardian. “I’m the same. I change on the pitch, I’m like another person, and I want to defend my team.
“Diego Costa off the pitch is someone with an incredible heart. If I didn’t know him off the pitch then, yeah, I might also say: ‘This guy is crazy – he’s a bad guy, bad character.’
“But he’s an incredible guy with a big heart.”
This all came to a head when the defender was sent off in a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in 2015 after an altercation with Costa, which Keown believes could have started the end of his Arsenal career – something he disagrees with.
“He was always so aggressive,” he told BT Sport.
“Was he maybe too aggressive? I don’t know. I want a certain thing when I’m watching the game, I want someone to put their foot in and to stand up.
“He got sent off against Costa, didn’t he? Maybe that was the beginning of the end for him.
“It should have been just the start.”
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Gabriel recalls first Arsenal experience
Despite Arsenal’s perceived worries about Gabriel’s aggression during his time at the club, the Brazilian has happier memories of his style of play.
Reminiscing on his first Arsenal start, a 2-0 win over Everton, Gabriel spoke of the reaction Gunners’ fans gave to his early tackles.
He added: “My characteristics are strength, aggression so in football terms my adaptation to the league wasn’t so difficult although Arsenal’s football is a bit different: it’s more about the ball.
“I remember my first game. I was up against [Romelu] Lukaku and there were a couple of 50-50 challenges early on and I went into this challenge hard, down on the ground and came away with the ball and suddenly the noise in the Emirates…”