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Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Pardew, Allardyce react to gruesome McCarthy injury

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West Brom forward Salomon Rondon had a fine match with a fearful moment in the Baggies’ 1-1 draw at Everton on Saturday, days after trailblazing club legend Cyrille Regis passed away at 59.

“He was the outstanding player on the pitch today and big Cyrille Regis would’ve been proud of him out there today,” Pardew said. “It was a fitting tribute and a great performance from Salomon.”

The Venezuelan nearly scored a few times and deserved an assist, too, but it was his fierce shot attempt that caused a double leg break for would-be shot blocker James McCarthy. The injured player was stretchered off and given oxygen during an extended pause in play.

Toffees boss Sam Allardyce said it’s a double fracture for McCarthy, blaming his players for the injury (“It was our own fault and our own stupid play in that area, James recovered brilliantly to stop a goal but suffered because of it,” he said).

West Brom manager Alan Pardew was left to comfort a tearful Rondon after the injury, and said the striker experienced the gruesome injury with multiple senses. From the BBC:

“I saw his reaction [to McCarthy’s injury] straight away, he must’ve heard something, sometimes it does really affect you and it did it take us a while to get him round and focused again. It took him a little while, but he got there in the end and almost won it for us. Our thoughts go with James and we wish a speedy recovery to him.”

Wenger hails Arsenal; update on Aubameyang deal

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Arsene Wenger has hailed Arsenal as they surged into a 4-0 lead after just 22 minutes against Crystal Palace on Saturday and won in the Premier League for the first time since December.

[ MORE: Mourinho update on Sanchez

Arsenal beat Palace 4-1 to move five points off the top four, despite all of their issues, as we were reminded how good they can be on their day when everything clicks.

With plenty of negativity around the Gunners heading into this game, plus Alexis Sanchez heading on his way to Manchester United amid growing criticism, Arsenal were fired up and delivered after five games without a win in all competitions.

Speaking after the game, Wenger was delighted with their first half display as several veterans returned to the starting lineup.

“We played our real game in the first half, good pace and good combination, created good chances” Wenger said. “In the second half the challenge was to keep the same drive and we didn’t manage to do that. Happy that we won the game. The speed of our game at the start was good. We are the only team to beat Palace in their last 12 games…. We know the challenge in front of us is very difficult, exciting as well but it will demand from us that we push ourselves in every single game. For 45 minutes our fans have seen some great football.”

Arsenal’s fans are growing increasingly excited that they will see some great finishing this season too.

Borussia Dortmund have announced that they’ve received a “first enquiry” from Arsenal for their star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Wenger was asked about a bid for the striker, which is reported to be around $61 million.

“No comment on that. They are responsible for their own statements. I can’t stand up for what they say. If we sign someone we will announce it,” Wenger said. “I half announce today Sanchez/Mkhitaryan because it’s likely to happen. The rest, we are not close at all to anything.”

Wenger was criticized by Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc earlier this week for not saying well, no too much on the pursuit of Aubameyang, who will presumably be a direct replacement for Sanchez, who didn’t play against Palace and is “heading up north” to seal his move to Man United with Henrik Mkhitaryan heading in the opposite direction.

“I don’t know what I said, I said nothing happens and I can’t comment on it, so I am quite surprised,” Wenger added. “It looks to be a tactical reaction rather than anything else because I didn’t say anything.”

Aubameyang has scored 13 goals in 15 games this season for Dortmund, but he has been left out of Dortmund’s last two squads for disciplinary reasons. On Friday, while his team drew 1-1 at Hertha Berlin, he played five-a-side with friends and wore a Dortmund shirt with Ousmane Dembele’s name on the back. Dembele was suspended in the summer by Dortmund after trying to push through a $130 million move to Barcelona, which eventually happened.

It seems like Aubameyang’s move is eventually going to happen too with Arsenal chasing the reigning Bundesliga top goalscorer who had 31 goals in 32 games last season, plus 141 in 212 total games for Dortmund over the past five seasons.

If Wenger can bring in Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan this January, plus keep hold of Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil, you’d have to say that is very good business for the Gunners as they aim to get the fans back on their side and push for a top four finish, the League Cup and a Europa League trophy in the final months of the season.

We all know Arsenal can blitz anyone when they’re on top of their game and Saturday gave us a timely reminder that despite all of the unrest around Wenger and his team, they’ve still got it. Big name arrivals may just save their season, too.

Mourinho reacts to win, thinks Alexis is coming to Man Utd

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Manchester United kept a fifth-straight clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Burnley, and Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho thinks he has a major reinforcement coming for his attack: Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.

[ RECAP: Burnley 0-1 Man Utd ]

“If you ask me if I think he is coming, I think so, but I have no confirmation,” Mourinho said after the win.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said the move will happen if Henrikh Mkhitaryan goes back the other way, and Mourinho would have a good idea whether the Armenian is ready for that: They share the same agent.

United’s goal wasn’t too different from a Sanchez special, as Anthony Martial scored for his third-straight Premier League match with a bullet off the bottom of the cross bar.

“Of course we are happy with him,” Mourinho said. “We just want consistency. We know he has the talent.”

As for the match, Mourinho was happy to see his side go nine points back of Man City before the leaders faced Newcastle United in the late game. From the BBC:

 “If you don’t score you are in trouble, they go direct, they are consistent in their approach it is really difficult. We defended very well, and it is fair to say Mike Dean and his team were very good. There was a lot of first ball, second ball and the physicality.”

Speaking of consistency, Mourinho is quite regular in how he compliments referees in post-match pressers as if to justify when he finds it time to rip into the men with the whistles and flags.

Burnley 0-1 Manchester United: Martial leads the way

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  • United up to 53 points
  • Martial scores in third-straight
  • Burnley down to eighth
  • Shots even at 12

Anthony Martial scored and Manchester United kept its fifth consecutive clean sheet in all competitions as Manchester United beat Burnley 1-0 on Saturday at Turf Moor.

United moves nine points shy of Man City before the leaders host Newcastle on Saturday.

Burnley was game, but is now winless in eight league matches to slip eighth on the table.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A first half which provided nearly nothing was mercifully changed almost 10 minutes into the second half, when Martial fooled Nick Pope with a laser shot from the edge of the 18.

Burnley had plenty of chances to level it, in particular when no one could get on the end of Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s inviting ball through the 18.

Jesse Lingard saw a late chance to pad the lead stymied by a Ben Mee block, and Pope denied Martial in the 88th.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]