Who: Pablo Mari
From Where: Flamengo
To Where: Arsenal
For How Much: Loan+option to buy later
Grade For Arsenal: B+
Grade For Flamengo: B-
Arsenal have FINALLY found a solution to their defensive problems by roping in Pablo Mari to boost Mikel Arteta’s backline. While not exactly the big name fans would’ve hoped for, the Brazilian centre-back caught their attention with his work in South America.
A no-nonsense defender with an unflinching attitude, he’s been brought in to add more steel to their defence. As long as Mari can make a strong impression at North-London, he could see his initial loan be turned permanent if he manages to fortify the Gunners’ frail defensive nature.
WHO IS HE?
Pablo Mari is a Spanish defender who earned his name for winning the Copa Libertadores with Flamengo in 2019. He’s played for La Liga side Mallorca & had a very small spell at Manchester City but didn’t make any official appearances.
He also played for Spanish minnows Deportivo La Coruna & Girona, before winning the Libertadores & Brasiliero Serie A with Flamengo. He was also included in the league’s team of the year for which Arsenal have taken this calculated gamble.
IS THE PRICE FAIR?
Well, the Gunners have had to pay a small £4 million loan fee for the Spanish defender. They also have the option to buy for around £8 million in the summer, but that’ll all come down to how he performs.
Arsenal were anyhow short in cash in January after splurging big in the summer, so getting an experienced centre-back for this low a fee is pretty good. If Mari turns out better than their current ones, they could end up striking a bargain by retaining him for cheap than going hunting for another defender.
WHAT IMPACT SHOULD WE EXPECT?
Arsenal are a mess defensively. They’ve conceded the 2nd most number of goals in the top half of the Premier League and their attacking might has often been undone by their leaky defence.
David Luiz is a ticking timebomb, Shkodran Mustafi both erroneous & injury-prone. Sokratis tries his best but is left helpless by his fellow defenders. There was an immediate need to bring in a commanding figure & Mari has shown the capability for being one.
The 26-year-old was especially impressive facing off against Liverpool in the FIFA Club World Cup final last month, keeping them goalless until very late. He loves making his presence felt with crunching challenges & but isn’t overaggressive.
He helped Flamengo keep nine clean-sheets en route to winning the Brazilian league last season, while only conceding 5 goals at the Libertadores. A tough as nail figure, the 6’3 figure’s impressive game-reading sense & ability to make clutch clearances should help Arsenal’s case.
The Gunners often switch off defensively but Mari will make sure they remain concentrated & vigilant against danger. He rarely makes mistakes or miss-passes and is brilliant aerially which is a bonus against physical sides. Sokratis should find his ideal partner, while even Luiz can be more expressive knowing there’s a reliable figure alongside.
Of course, the Spaniard’s inclusion now gives Arteta varied options to choose from. He can try out different combinations & stick with whichever keeps out goals. Mari’s compelling defensive skills should also relieve Bernd Leno, who’s had to save the Gunners from trouble time & again.
But the Spaniard isn’t just known for his gritty defending. He’s a nature ball-playing centre-back which is quintessential for Arsenal’s system. Indeed, he can play the ball out defence with ease, possessing commendable distribution skills and being able to find forward runs with his long-balls.
He’s also a threat on set-pieces thanks to his goal-scorers instinct, which will also encourage the Gunners- who have an impressive record scoring from corners this time around. That being said, his primary goal is to impress on the defensive end.
Mari will be extra motivated to rectify Arsenal’s defensive record knowing a permanent deal hangs in the balance. He’ll pour his heart & soul into putting in spirited performances to help the Gunners sustain pressure better & keep more clean-sheets, which should equal to more points in the business end of the campaign.
With limited expenditure, Arsenal have swooped in a promising figure. Mari isn’t the best option by any means, but he’s more secure than their current crop & should bring composure into their back-line. His hard-hitting style should rattle opponents into being intimidated by the Gunners again. It’s a sweet deal for them. If Mari succeeds at improving their defensive record, they’ll sign him for cheap. If not, William Saliba is anyhow arriving in the summer.
This is a bit of a gamble Flamengo have taken. If Mari returns to them after the English season ends, they’ll end up getting that fee for free & regain him for their own campaign. But if he’s signed permanently, they’ll be losing their best defender & have to look for another. However, considering the money involved, they should be fine regardless.