Gabriel, we hardly knew ya. Actually that's not quite true; Gabriel made 50 appearances for us, I believe, in all competitions (37 in the league).
As I recall, although we signed him in the late summer, he didn't make his Villarreal debut until we played Atletico Madrid in November; that match ended 1-1 and all were impressed with Gabriel's debut against a very physical Atleti. (As I recall, this was a match where Diego Costa tried to get Gabriel sent off, and he handled it very well and refused to be drawn into any confrontation a ref could see).
Marcelino worked a lot with Gabriel; the player clearly had lots of talent but was unused to the sort of zonal marking and defensive positioning European clubs employ. But what was evident from the beginning was Gabriel's ability in one-on-one situations; he's second in the league to Aymeric Laporte in "recuperations" (ball recoveries), a particularly important part of Villarreal's game given that we are so often playing high up the pitch and can be vulnerable to quick counterattacks.
This is a somewhat strange transfer, inasmuch as (dare I say it) the return on Villarreal's money is so good. Reports in England said the final fee may have been €18-19m, slightly less than the €20m release clause, but surely that has to do with the agreement to let Joel Campbell come to us on loan.
Gabriel, for his part, has been pretty terrific through the whole thing, and while some of us will be upset with his departure so soon, I can't really blame him or his agent for what has taken place. Gabriel said what he had to say to let Arsenal know that if they reached agreement with Villarreal , he would be OK with the move. Similarly, his agent first mentioned Arsenal as a possibility, but from what I can tell was blissfully absent from my twitter feed and the European newspapers after that.
Good luck, Gabriel. We hope you will do well with Arsenal, and do ask Santi to buy you a beer and share some memories of Villarreal.. As I write this, Gabriel is being introduced for the last time at El Madrigal and is receiving a large ovation. He received one of those cool ceramic submarines and posed for the team photo (though not in kit, of course).
Now, for the new arrival. Joel Campbell is a Costa Rica international with speed to burn--he can play on both wings, as well as a striker (which is how the Ticos employed him this summer). He's only 22, and has some experience of playing in Spain, having spent a year at Betis on loan. He was subsequently loaned to Olympiakos, where he scored 8 times in 32 matches.
This seaosn, he has been on Arsenal's bench for the most part, but he is clearly bound for better things based on his World Cup performances. For me, he is an excellent fit for Marcelino's "4G" Villarreal, based around speed and quick passing rather than strength and possession.
No idea whether at the end of the season we will look back on the departure of Gabriel and arrival of Campbell as a positive or a negative (and to be fair, it's seldom easy to tell) but we wish both players the best: one in London, the other in Vila-real. ENDAVANT SUBMARINO!!