Football: Gabriel ready to make Arsenal debut against Villa, says Wenger

Gabriel Paulista (left) vies for the ball with Zürich's midfielder Marco Schonbacher during the Uefa Europa League football Group A match FC Zurich vs Villarreal CF at the Letzigrund stadium on Nov 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Gabriel Paulista (left) vies for the ball with Zürich's midfielder Marco Schonbacher during the Uefa Europa League football Group A match FC Zurich vs Villarreal CF at the Letzigrund stadium on Nov 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Arsenal's new signing Gabriel Paulista could make his Premier League debut against Aston Villa but leading goal-scorer Alexis Sanchez is not likely to be risked with a hamstring injury, manager Arsene Wenger said on Friday.

The 24-year-old defender joined the Gunners from Spanish side Villarreal earlier this week and Wenger is confident the Brazilian will provide stiff competition for first-choice central defenders Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.

"He's ready to go. He'll be in the squad, certainly," Wenger told a news conference. "Maybe it will take some time to adapt completely, but overall it is very good to have him.

"This season he has played every game for Villarreal and we have seen him many times. We are convinced about his quality.

"He is very ambitious, focused and serious. That is important at a club like ours - you need to have a complete focus on your job. He has that.

"I like the players who come from nowhere and show they can adapt. From Brazil, he has (then) adapted to Spain. That means he has already made it and adapted in another country, and so that is another important quality."

Wenger admitted that Chilean forward Sanchez, who has scored 18 goals for Arsenal this season, is unlikely to be risked for Sunday's clash against Aston Villa at the Emirates after picking up a hamstring injury.

However, midfield trio Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are nearing returns after injury, as is England striker Danny Welbeck.

Having beaten champions Manchester City 2-0 in their last Premier League game two weeks ago, Wenger is hoping his side can put a run of results together as they bid for a top-four finish.

"That's our target," the Frenchman said. "We want complete focus and commitment, and to be completely concentrated on what we want to achieve.

"We know we have some ground to make up. The fight around the top four is very difficult, so the target is consistency now."

With the January transfer window drawing to a close, Wenger, who has signed Gabriel and young Polish midfielder Krystian Bielik this month, does not expect to make more additions to his squad.

"It looks unlikely," he added. "But if someone stands outside my door and he's an exceptional player, I will open my door."