Gabriel Paulista

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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.

Wenger reveals extent of Mustafi’s injury, timetable for return

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4 — the number of Premier League games Arsenal will play between now and the turn of the New Year. 0 — games for which the Gunners will have standout center back Shkodran Mustafi after the German international picked up a “bad” hamstring injury on Saturday.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Leicester shock Man City; Arsenal go top ]

Mustafi (12 starts), who alongside Laurent Koscielny (14 starts) has anchored one of the PL’s stingiest defenses this season (15 goals conceded in 15 games — 3rd-fewest after Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea), is expected to miss at least three weeks after leaving Saturday’s comeback victory over Stoke City after just 25 minutes, according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger — quotes from Arsenal.com:

“It’s a bad one. He had nothing in midweek. I would not have played him today (if he had). I had Hector Bellerin on the bench. I could have played Holding or Gabriel. He wanted to play in Basel, because he said ‘no it’s nothing’, and it was completely clear. I checked three times and there was no problem for. I don’t know why it happened, but it looks a ‘good’ hamstring strain.”

“Look, the minimum when you go out like that is 21 days. After that, today is December 10, so you are 21 days, that means he’ll have a nice Christmas.”

Gabriel Paulista seems the most likely candidate to replace Mustafi at center back, though the Brazilian has endured an injury-plagued season of his own (just three appearances in the PL) and found himself on the outside looking in thus far. 21-year-old Rob Holding started the first three PL games of the season, but hasn’t appeared in a league game since Aug. 27.

PL preseason roundup: Arsenal’s injury crisis starts early; Costa scores for Chelsea

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A roundup of Sunday’s preseason action involving Premier League sides…

[ MORE: Every Premier League season preview ]

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester City

The 2016-17 Premier League season is yet to even kick off, and Arsenal already have a budding injury crisis on their hands. Gabriel Paulista was stretchered off during second-half stoppage time of the Gunners’ 3-2 victory over Manchester City in Gothenburg, Sweden. Per Mertesacker underwent knee surgery last month and could miss the rest of 2016, which means Arsene Wenger will have to either rush Laurent Koscielny back from his post-EURO 2016 break, or start 20-year-old Rob Holding at center back in next Sunday’s season opener against Liverpool (11 a.m. ET, Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck will also be unavailable next weekend, while Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey are both expected to be available after logging 78 and 62 minutes in Sunday’s game, respectively.

Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Chuba Akpom did the scoring for Arsenal on Sunday. Sergio Aguero and Kelechi Iheanacho bagged the goals for Man City, who kick off their season next Saturday, at home against Sunderland (12:30 p.m. ET, Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Werder Bremen 2-4 Chelsea

Diego Costa might stay at Chelsea, or he might not. We may have to wait all the way until the transfer deadline for a definitive answer, but in the meantime, Costa is back in action with his (for now) Chelsea teammates, and scoring goals. The Brazilian-turned-Spanish striker made it 3-1 just before halftime of Sunday’s friendly against Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. Eden Hazard and Oscar each scored inside 10 minutes before Claudio Pizarro halved the lead from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute.

Lennart Thy made it 3-2 not long after the hour mark, and Pedro restored the two-goal lead in the 90th minute. Antonio Conte will make his Premier League debut when Chelsea welcome West Ham United to Stamford Bridge next Monday (3 p.m. ET, Watch live on USA and online via NBCSports.com).

VELDEN, AUSTRIA - JULY 20: Bertrand Traore (C) of Chelsea celebrate scoring a goal with the Diego Costa (R) near goalkeeper Alexander Kofler (L) of WAC RZ Pellets during the international friendly match between WAC RZ Pellets and Chelsea F.C. at Worthersee Stadion on July 20, 2016 in Velden, Austria. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
(Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

West Ham United 2-3 Juventus

Speaking of West Ham, the Hammers fell to Juventus, the five-time defending Serie A champions, in their first game inside their new home ground, the Olympic Stadium, on Sunday. Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic made it 2-0 after 21 minutes. Andy Carroll bagged a brace either side of halftime to level the score, but Simone Zaza (whose EURO 2016 penalty kick still hasn’t landed) hit the winner in the 85th minute.

Mainz 4-0 Liverpool

Liverpool, who also played on Saturday, were rolled by Jurgen Klopp‘s “other” former club, Mainz. The majority of expected starters featured in Saturday’s demolition of Barcelona, thus did not see action 24 hours later.

Elsewhere in preseason action

Southampton 1-0 Athletic Bilbao

Premier League Team of the Week — Round 19

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With all 20 Premier League club having now played 19 games, we’re officially at the halfway point of the 2015-16 season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The just-completed 19th round of PL fixtures saw a change at the top of the table, as Arsenal regained the league lead; another potential title contender emerge; the inevitable firing of Louis Van Gaal creep ever closer; and a candidate for game of the season.

From round no. 19 of PL fixtures, this week’s Premier League Team of the Week…

Premier League Team of the Week — Round 19 ARCHIVE ]

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech (Arsenal)

Defenders: Ashley Williams (Swansea City), Gabriel Paulista (Arsenal), Wes Morgan (Leicester City)

Midfielders: Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City)

Forwards: Dieumerci Mbokani (Norwich City), Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City), Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

Suspended after all: Arsenal’s Gabriel to miss match vs. Leicester

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Gabriel Paulista will still miss playing time despite the overturning of his three-game ban for stamping Chelsea’s Diego Costa.

The Arsenal defender was set to miss a trio of games after his much-maligned reaction to Costa’s incendiary tactics on Saturday cost him a red card.

[ MORE: Men in Blazers talk Gabriel v. Costa ]

But he still took that red in retaliation, and will sit out Arsenal’s trip to Leicester City on Saturday.

Gabriel admitted responsibility for his actions, and will also see a fine of around $15,000.

Costa was not given a red card for his behavior on Saturday, which included multiple hands to the face of Laurent Koscielny and predatory stalking of Gabriel. Upon review, the Blues forward picked up a three-game suspension for his behavior.