Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has urged Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta to go against the grain and sign a “decent” centre-back.
The Gunners have struggled this season and currently sit 10th in the Premier League after 24 games, on their third manager of the campaign.
Unai Emery was the man initially in charge, starting his second season with the Gunners, but lasted only until the end of November. Freddie Ljungberg replaced him on a temporary basis before Arteta came in just under a month later.
Will Arsenal sign Pablo Mari? Five things to know…
- Arsenal were expected to sign centre-back Pablo Mari from Flamengo this week.
- The former Manchester City defender was pictured arriving at Heathrow airport on Saturday.
- However, Arsenal are yet to confirm the deal with reports claiming talks have only just got back on track.
- Ferdinand has urged the Gunners to back Arteta and sign the defender he has picked out.
- Arsenal are currently 5/2* to finish the 2019/20 season in the Premier League top six.
However, the Spaniard still faces similar problems to his predecessors, including Arsene Wenger. For all their attacking talent in the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and, more recently, Gabriel Martinelli, the Gunners have been poor in defence.
They looked to have remedied this to an extent in the summer with David Luiz and William Saliba signing but the latter was sent straight back on loan to Saint-Etienne and the former remains unreliable.
Since Arteta’s first official match as Arsenal manager, the Gunners have managed to keep two clean sheets in eight games, one of which came against Championship side Leeds United in the FA Cup. Arsenal had looked to be adding a third against Bournemouth on Monday but the clean sheet was lost in injury time as Sam Surridge capitalised on a momentary lapse in concentration.
The Gunners have been linked with signing a new centre-back in January, with Pablo Mari looking likely to join Arsenal from Brazilian side Flamengo having been filmed arriving at Heathrow airport on Saturday morning.
However, with the January transfer window closing on Friday, talks initially appeared to have stalled.
Ferdinand has urged Arsenal to buck their long-standing trend and ensure this deal gets over the line — further reports claim the transfer is now back on track.
“This is where Mikel Arteta needs to do something different to the Arsenal managers in the last eight or nine years — buy a decent centre-half,” he told BT Sport.
“Buy someone who can come in and be a mainstay and you go, ‘actually wow, he’s made us better’.
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“Because I haven’t seen one come in since [Laurent] Koscielny. If that’s the player [Mari] that Mikel Arteta wants and he deems him the man who’s going to come in and shore up the defence, I think he deserves that.
“You’ve invested in him as a manager, you need to invest in his ideas as a manager in the transfer market, too.”
Arsenal’s centre-back signings since Koscielny
Since Laurent Koscielny made the move from Lorient to Arsenal in 2010, the Gunners have signed 10 new centre-backs to try and partner or replace the Frenchman. And, only one has really made a positive impact at the club.
Sebastien Squillaci was the first to follow Koscielny, signing towards the end of the 2010 summer transfer window but in his 39 appearances for the Gunners, he failed to gain the trust of the fans. Per Mertesacker came the following summer and is perhaps the only success story of Arsenal centre-backs, becoming a fan favourite, and remains with the Gunners as a coach.
As the years passed, the likes of Semi Ajayi and Gabriel Paulista have come and gone with the latter making a name for himself for his fight, rather than defensive abilities. Sokratis, Kostantinos Mavropanos, Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Luiz and Saliba remain at the club but none have set the defence alight yet.