According to John Cross, who wrote a book about Arsene Wenger, Arsenal are close to selling Gabriel to La Liga side Valencia. Gabriel has struggled to nail down a role in the first-team squad since joining from Villarreal in January 2015. Further, Crossy reports that the Brazilian has not adjusted well to life in Great Britain.
The reported fee for the centerback is £10m. That figure is £5m less than the Gunners paid two and a half years ago to bring him to the club.
In a summer where Arsenal fans have complained about selling deadweight, this move cannot be surprising. Gabriel is, at best, the club’s 6th option for one of the three centerback roles, with Calum Chambers and Krystian Bielik nipping at his heels and Sead Kolasinac potentially being a better option as well. Recouping a large chunk of his transfer fee and getting his wages off the books is a worthwhile move to make.
Perhaps more worrying than the transfer itself is what it might mean for Arsenal’s recruitment policy. As the Mirror article points out, Gabriel was the first StatsDNA-pushed purchase for Arsenal after the company was acquired by the club. Wenger has made comments recently about player recruitment that seem to signal some tension between the analytics and traditional scouting departments in North London. Judging by the prominence of the the “stats-driven buy” in the piece, the person leaking this news wants to point out the perceived failure of the StatsDNA system. This is absurd.
Gabriel wasn’t an outright failure. He was a panic, January buy and performed solidly for much of his Arsenal career. He had some great matches and some clunkers. Given the options available to us in that winter transfer window, he was fine. He wasn’t the long-term starter some of us hoped for, but that happens.
The traditional scouting department clearly still plays the key role in player recruitment at the club and will so long as Wenger is in charge. Considering the performances of other purchases in recent history (who was it that recommended Mathieu Debuchy?), it’s silly to keep score over who proposed what. That discord cannot be helpful to the club.
In every sport, but particularly in soccer, the analytical side and the scouting side have to work hand in hand. That they are seemingly at each others’ throats, does not bode well for the future of the club’s recruitment.