Gabriel Paulista
Gabriel Paulista continues to be pursued by Arsenal. Reuters

The chances of Villarreal central defender Gabriel Paulista signing for Arsenal in the January transfer window are “50-50,” according to Arsene Wenger. The Arsenal manager confirmed that negotiations are ongoing to bring the Brazilian to the Emirates Stadium to reinforce their defense, although suggested that there is still some way to go before an agreement is reached between the clubs.

“The talks are progressing quite well. I don’t think there is need to say much more. We are talking at the moment. Can we find an agreement or not? I don’t know. There’s a chance. We are ready to pay the price we think right for a good player. No matter what the price is, if we think it’s the right price we will pay it.”

Wenger refused to confirm whether Arsenal had lodged an initial bid of £6 million for the 24-year-old, or whether they would be prepared to pay the buy-out clause in his contract of 20 million euros (£15 million). Even should an agreement be struck, Arsenal will have to go through the appeals process in order to secure a work permit for the player. Gabriel has yet to make a senior appearance for Brazil, meaning he fails to meet the current requirements. The rules are due to change in the summer, when players costing in excess of £10 million will automatically qualify for a work permit, but Wenger insisted they would press ahead with a deal in the January transfer window.

“If a player we want needs a work permit we’ll defend it now, because we’ll not necessarily want to do it in the summer,” he said. “We are short at the moment now, so no matter what the rules are we have to do it now.”

Those may not be the only potential complications, however. The London Evening Standard has reported that Arsenal’s Premier League rivals Manchester United are also keen on Gabriel. United are believed to have plenty of other targets, although their financial power means they are likely to have little quibble about paying up his release clause.

Arsenal’s urgency for defensive reinforcement has been exacerbated by a recent dislocated shoulder suffered by Mathieu Debuchy that will rule the right-back out for three months. Wenger has stressed that filling that gap is a strong priority right now, although he revealed on Thursday that if the Gabriel deal went through, it would “not necessarily” be their last piece of business this month. One player they now won’t be signing, however, is Brazilian midfielder Lucas Silva. The Cruzeiro star, recently voted the best defensive midfielder in Brazil’s top division, has been regularly linked with Arsenal but always appeared more likely to be Real-Madrid-bound. And that transfer is now seemingly all but wrapped up.

“The deal is closed and will be announced on Thursday,” Cruzeiro vice president Marcio Rodrigues told ESPN.

A holding midfielder would seem the likeliest target for Arsenal after a defender, and there looks little chance that Wenger will attempt to further add to the forward-thinking players at his disposal. It is a surprise then to see current Wolfsburg and former Chelsea attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne named as a target by various outlets. Manchester United have also been credited with an interest in the player who Chelsea sold for £18 million a year ago, but his agent has seemingly ruled out another transfer in January.

“There is always going to be interest when things have been going so well but I can tell you Kevin is happy where he is,” Patrick De Koster told The Guardian. “After a difficult time at Chelsea he just wanted to be playing regularly. Now that is happening and Kevin is totally focused on helping Wolfsburg to qualify for the Champions League.

“But after that, who knows? England and Spain are both interesting championships or he could decide that another season in Germany is for the best. But it could be difficult because Wolfsburg paid a lot of money to sign Kevin and there are only a few clubs who could afford the price they will want.”