A goal, a huge missed chance, a red card, a blunder, a referee's decision. Many contests are measured solely by a couple of these things, retroactively. All of the action, reaction, hard work, bluster and human chess that inevitably leads to those events are seldom taken into consideration.

Arsenal's January arrival Gabriel Paulista was, pre-match, odds-on to be involved in at least one 'talking point' of Sunday's home encounter against Everton for two reasons.

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Firstly - after the much-maligned Per Mertesacker was dropped following one of the worst nights of his career midweek against Monaco - it was important Gabriel 'stepped up' in the German's spot. Secondly, he's a defender for Arsenal, for crying out loud. Of course he's likely to be in the eye of the storm, so to speak.

As it turned out, Gabriel was heavily involved in the game's two most crucial moments:

17 mins - A frightening moment of complacency allows Romelu Lukaku to mug Gabriel of the ball, with only David Ospina preventing a cheap opener.

37 mins - Again in on goal, Lukaku is this time denied by a superb last-ditch Gabriel tackle, from which the hosts went up the other end and scored the game's opener, from which Arsenal stuck it out and emerged 2-0 victors.

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On this basis, one could summarise Gabriel's performance as featuring one great moment which made up for a near-Mertesacker (or, dare I say, Cygan) of a disaster.

But as much as those big moments make or break careers, in the eyes of the ardent supporter, football will forever be a 90-minute game - and there was so much more to Gabriel's display than those two polarising moments.

As early as five minutes into the game, the Brazilian was a clear figure of authority in a back line notorious for a lack of steel since the heady days of Tony Adams, Steve Bould and co. Unlike Mertesacker, he had the movement to conduct such leadership of the line by example.

By the quarter-hour mark, Lukaku had put his one-on-one battle with Gabriel on hold to instead seek better openings from the inexperienced Hector Bellerin and an off-day for Kieran Gibbs, such was Gabriel's marking of the dangerous Belgian.

In fact, when Gabriel gifted Lukaku that huge opportunity soon after, the striker was as surprised as anybody.

Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel's defensive partner on the day, had a hit-and-miss performance - but the neutralisation of Lukaku for the most part meant Kevin Mirallas and then substitute Aaron Lennon were trying to provide more of a central threat. The former was handled fairly well, the latter almost scored after a double snafu from the Frenchman.

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In fact, Lukaku's only two other serious sniffs at goal in the second period came from counter-attacks - when Gabriel and Koscielny were stretched wide due to the overlapping attacking runs made by their full-backs and weren't there to deal with him personally.

Though perhaps less of a 'TV highlight' than the two first-half moments involving Lukaku, Gabriel had a third big moment which, hopefully, isn't lost in the mire of an otherwise-okayish contest staged by two sides worn down by continental duties midweek.

On 73 minutes, it took a very risky slide challenge from Gabriel to prevent Ross Barkley from ending his day of anonymity and scoring or assisting an equaliser.

The grounded Englishman appeared to have a sly dig or grab at the defender out of frustration after being denied. Gabriel gave as good as he got, in one of those moments that could resonate with home fans more so than the excellent piece of defending which preceded it. The hearty cheer from the fans was well-deserved.

"It was an encouraging performance overall," Arsene Wenger said of Gabriel in the post-match press conference. "He has a good concentration level and is quick.

"It is difficult to find [no-nonsense central defenders] like him these days."

Gabriel will now embark on a very long and difficult road, under the guidance of a manager who very seldom has a 'Plan B' on offer if things do not go how he envisioned them pre-match, as the Monaco debacle proved.

Of course, bigger tests will come. Of course, Gabriel will not pass every individual test. Nobody does. But much like with his 90-minute shift on Sunday, it is the bigger picture which is most important - especially for a club in 'high-end purgatory' as Arsenal currently are.

Thankfully for the Gunners, Gabriel displayed enough character and mental strength in this not-exactly-huge-but-certainly-important battle between two sides wondering why they aren't reaping more dividends this season than they are.

If Gabriel and the Arsenal defence as a whole are to develop and mature into the cavalry, a coach like Wenger needs to stabilise his stubborn frailties, another key component also hails from South America - and has also been at the club less than a year.

David Ospina will no doubt have games where he makes more saves, and more crucial saves, than against Everton - though denying Lukaku early on was certainly crucial, given how frail morale would have been since Wednesday.

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And yet, like with Gabriel the Londoners have someone in Ospina with the steel, authority and self-assurance to perhaps one day end the common belief among opponents that if you persevere through the fluid Arsenal attacks, you can blow their defensive door down with one casual huff.

Liam Happe, Emirates Stadium – follow on Twitter: external@liamhappe https://twitter.com/liamhappe%20None

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