Making his first Premier League start, it was interesting to see how Gabriel Paulista got on.
The Brazilian was completely untested against Middlesbrough, and this game against the physical Romelu Lukaku was always going to provide a much sterner test.
Gabriel wasn’t always comfortable in possession, almost letting Lukaku through at 0-0 and then gifting Aaron Lennon the opportunity to run at a stranded Laurent Koscielny in the second half.
Both times he was saved by his teammates.
However, he did impress.
A particularly eye-catching tackle on Lukaku in the first half was excellent, but there were actually more subtle areas of his game that impressed me.
Aerially Gabriel doesn’t seem fazed by any opponent, and was even delaying his leap to just ease Lukaku out of a challenge, sometimes making him miss his header completely.
Gabriel also looked to do this on the ground, getting his body across his opponent. In a more physical Premier League than he is used to he may have to choose his moments, looking slightly suspect on a couple of occasions, but he displayed decent technique and a lot of self-belief.
Perhaps the biggest thing you notice about Gabriel, replacing Per Mertesacker, is his pace. Not as quick as Koscielny, but still fleet-footed enough, using him allows a far more stable use of the high line that the team so often looks to employ.
Not without the slight hiccup, but that’s to be expected and accounted for, Gabriel has enjoyed a solid enough start to his Arsenal career.
Mertesacker may just have a fight on his hands come next season.