Gabriel Paulista
Gabriel Paulista made a faultless debut at the heart of the Arsenal defenceGetty Imges

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has praised Gabriel Paulista's faultless debut after claiming world-class defenders are becoming increasingly difficult to come by in the transfer market.

Paulista was one of two additions during the January window but has been forced to wait a month for his first start in the top flight, having previously begun the FA Cup fifth round win over Middlesbrough in February.

But the 24-year-old began from the start for the visit of Everton, replacing Per Mertesacker following the German's uncertain display against Monaco, and inspired a clean sheet that left Wenger highlighting the lack of quality central defenders available around the world.

"He had an encouraging performance overall," the Arsenal manager said. "He was surprised by the intensity of the challenges once or twice but he made a great tackle against Romelu Lukaku in the first half. He's highly focused, has a good concentration level and is quick. We all like that [he is an old-fashioned defender]. It's difficult to find central defenders today."

With Tottenham Hotspur preoccupied with the League Cup final and Southampton having lost at West Bromwich Albion, Arsenal took a grip on one of the two remaining Champions League places with a 2-0 win over Everton.

The club's sixth league win in seven games came after they were shocked by Monaco in the Champions League but a three-point lead over fifth place Liverpool sees Arsenal hold the upper hand heading into the final 11 games of the campaign.

"It depends what you call on the rise," Wenger said. "We have three more points than last week and if you look at our Premier League run since November, I think we are in a good position. On the fluency front we can do better but today our first worry was just to win the game."