Pablo Mari: An effective use of our limited resources?
By Max Champness
After once again missing out on long-term target Dayot Upamecano in January, Arsenal had to look elsewhere to ensure the position was sufficiently covered. Once again, technical director Edu Gaspar dived into his Brazilian contacts and quickly resurfaced with 26-year-old Flamengo defender Pablo Mari. Our first sight of the Brazilian, as captured by Charles Watts, walking out of the Heathrow airport terminal with a smile wide across his face. The player was signed, and announcements were made within days of the initial rumours: a 6-month loan costing approximately £4 million, with the option to buy for £10 million in the summer.
However, shortly after his arrival, it became clear that Mari was not at the appropriate fitness level to be starting in the Premier League due to his last minutes being in December. So, the Arsenal team got to work restoring his levels. Despite their best efforts, Mari was only able to play 180 senior minutes for Arsenal. The outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent suspension of the Premier League stunted his progression- seemingly grinding to a close just as he was ready to play. However, in his short display of appearances, Mari clearly displayed some signs of potential. Two clean sheets in two, albeit against Portsmouth and West Ham, is a welcome change from the normality of Arsenal’s defensive woes.
It seems, when you look at Mari’s defining attributes, that he is everything Arsenal are looking for: a left-footed, left-sided centre back who is tall (6 foot 4 inches) and is confident playing out from the back. His relatively cheap price furthers the incentive to make this deal permanent; it’s clear that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke will not be investing heavily any time soon and, in harmony with our lack of Champions League football and loss of profit from the coronavirus, we will be low on transfer funds and thus will have to spend what we have wisely. Pablo Mari seems to be a cheap and efficient answer to a significant question.
Furthermore, due to his experience playing in Brazil and learning Portuguese, Pablo Mari and David Luiz have the potential to form quite an attractive centre-back duo. The Spaniard has already come out and spoken his praise for Luiz: "We know that David is an unbelievable player. He has had a good career and is a good football player, and also playing with him is so easy. These two games with him in the starting XI were nice because I only focused on my job and I did not need to focus on other jobs. For us, it's easy to play with him."
The height, power, communication and passing range possessed between these two would prove to be a more than solid partnership- the only real concern one can draw is the lack of pace. We have not yet had the opportunity to see how Mari can cope against a different style of striker.
It’s evident that Mari has the passion and drive to want to succeed at Arsenal. Since joining, Mari has already commented that he would like to stay at Arsenal next season. In an exclusive interview with Talksport, he stated, ‘’I have found myself here at Arsenal. It is a really good option for me. I want to stay here and improve as a player and a person. I want to be here for many more years.”
Commitment like this is exactly what we need. At times of struggle, passion and determination, as well as a sense of humility in the player that they get to play for such a club as Arsenal, can often drive standards through the roof. With the addition of Saliba and the potential of Mari and one more centre-back, the competition for the starting position alongside Luiz will push each player further and further. £10 million for a player of this sort feels like a worthy use of funds, given the likes of Upamecano and Umtiti are probably be off the table.
Yes, this is not a flashy, big-money marquee signing, but Pablo Mari could be the exact kind of acquisition that could represent money well spent given our limited finances.