Why Arsenal desperately need Pablo Mari
Background image: Wull How, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Arsene Wenger often gets accused of failing to succeed in the later years of his tenure with Arsenal. The Frenchman retorts that once the Gunners left Highbury, they lost their soul. While that is debatable, Arsenal did lose their ability to defend. Over the years, Wenger's free-flowing attacking football never ceased - but his porous backline often let the North Londoners down.
Even with the addition of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, these problems followed Wenger's successor Unai Emery. Fast forward past the failed era of the Spaniard and Arsenal's cursed backline has been passed onto Mikel Arteta. The Gunners have kept a meagre four clean sheets all season as their defence remains consistently out of position while also being unable to sense danger. The loss of Callum Chambers definitely didn't help matters.
The 25-year-old ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in Decembers 2-1 loss to Chelsea. After being bought from Southampton in 2014, the Englishman found himself in and out of the Arsenal team, before he found his feet at Fulham last season while on loan. There, Chambers was crowned the clubs Player of the Year. Since returning to the Emirates, the centre-half has arguably been the clubs best at the back. So news that Chambers would be out for six to eight months would have hurt. After the start of a decent partnership with David Luiz began to flourish, Arteta is now back at square one.
Injuries, coupled with the loss of former club captain Laurent Koscielny in the summer compounded the pressure on Arsenal's already fragile backline. Recently, Arteta confessed that he may dip into the transfer market for reinforcements:
"We always have to be looking because obviously we have some bad injuries for players who are going to be out for a long time. We have to see if we can find options there."
The calls of Arsenal's gaffer haven't fallen on deaf ears. The rumour mill has since gone into overdrive, linking the Emirates outfit with the likes of RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano and Juventus' Daniele Rugani. The Gunners have since settled on a different target. Reports have emerged suggesting that Flamengo defender, Pablo Mari, is in London to complete his medical in anticipation of his move to the North London club.
In 2016, Mari signed for Manchester City but failed to make a single appearance before leaving in the summer of 2019. Since his move to Brazil, the 26-year-old has improved drastically, winning both the Brazilian league and Copa Libertadores. While the Brazilian league is far less competitive than the Premier League, it should be noted that the defender was also a standout performer when Liverpool beat Flamengo 1-0, to win the FIFA Club World Cup in December.
At 6'4" the defender's physicality would be a welcome presence in Arteta's starting eleven. The Spaniard does well to nip attacks at the bud and has an excellent positional sense. In addition to helping Arsenal tighten their defence, Mari's quality on the ball is an added bonus. His ability to play pinpoint long balls, while possessing the skill to drive into midfield, will further help Arsenal's already potent attack.
The top four race is far from settled. Arsenal will still hold out hope that they'll be able to leap up the table between now and May. With Manchester United and Chelsea as inconsistent as ever, Mikel Arteta will hope the first signing of his tenure can help propel the Gunners to a last-ditch top-four finish.