Arsene Wenger does not believe that a recent bust-up between Arsenal players Gabriel Paulista and Lucas Perez was anything serious. The Gunners pair were reportedly seen exchanging heated views while walking off the pitch following a narrow Boxing Day (26 December) victory over Premier League rivals West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates Stadium, with the row believed to have continued as they exited down the tunnel.
Centre-back Gabriel was said by onlookers to have been furious with the lack of adequate late defensive work performed by his teammate, who only featured for the final 20 minutes of the match after replacing Alex Iwobi. That type of discord could potentially be seen as a worrying distraction, although Wenger sought to downplay the issue in his post-match press conference.
"I don't know what it's about, I didn't see it," he was quoted as saying by ESPN. "But they have a South American temper, and Spanish, so that can sometimes happen. I don't think that anything bad happened. They are two good friends, very close to each other. So that is already forgotten now."
While not usually considered an automatic selection, Gabriel has started each of Arsenal's last seven matches across all competitions and demonstrated his versatility by deputising for injured right-back Hector Bellerin before moving inside to cover the absence of Shkodran Mustafi.
Addressing the Brazilian's passion for the cause during a recent interview, goalkeeper Petr Cech told the official club website: "Gabriel is a player who plays with his heart and you can see that in every game. It always means a lot to him because he plays with a lot of emotion and does everything to help the team win."
Spanish forward Perez, meanwhile, arrived in English football alongside Mustafi during the latter stages of the summer transfer window after the €20m (£17.1m, $20.9m) release clause in his contract with La Liga outfit Deportivo La Coruna was successfully triggered. The 28-year-old, previously a target for Everton, Hull City, Villarreal and Sevilla, has made only 10 competitive appearances under Wenger to date. His five-goal haul consists of a brace during September's EFL Cup third-round drubbing of Nottingham Forest and a hat-trick against FC Basel in Switzerland that helped Arsenal to top their Champions League group for the first time since 2012.
Arsenal dominated possession against West Brom, but failed to break the resilience of Baggies' keeper Ben Foster until striker Olivier Giroud, making his first league start of 2016-17 in the absence of Theo Walcott and subsequently hailed as a "fighter" by Wenger, headed home a Mesut Ozil cross with just four minutes remaining. That win came as a source of great relief after back-to-back away defeats by Everton and Manchester City and temporarily lifted the Gunners back up to third before Pep Guardiola's side cruised past Hull City.
Arsenal still trail dominant leaders Chelsea by nine points and usher in 2017 with another home fixture against Sam Allardyce and Crystal Palace on New Year's Day.