Pablo Mari looks set to complete his move from Flamengo to Arsenal, becoming Mikel Arteta’s first-ever signing at the club.
The Gunners have had a torrid 2019/20 campaign so far, winning just six of their 24 Premier League games to leave them stranded back in 10th place, 10 points behind Chelsea in fourth.
Will Pablo Mari join Arsenal? Five key things to know…
- Mari left Man City to join Brazilian side Flamengo in July 2019 and has since helped them win the 2019 Copa Libertadores and Campeonato Brasileiro Série A titles.
- Arsenal are now in talks to sign Mari on loan, according to Sky Sports.
- They also claim the 26-year-old defender is due to undergo a medical this weekend.
- Mari was filmed arriving in the UK on Saturday morning with Arsenal technical director, Edu.
- Arsenal are currently 20/1* to finish the 2019/20 season in the Premier League top four.
A huge part of Arsenal’s struggles this season has been their defence, which has leaked 34 Premier League goals so far. That is the most of any of last season’s top six and the eighth-highest amount in the division. The Gunners have also made the third-highest number of errors leading to shots (13).
The north London side have been heavily linked with the likes of Jerome Boateng from Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano to help solve their rearguard issues but now, it looks increasingly like Mari will be their man at a cut-price of just £7.5m.
Mari was filmed arriving at Heathrow airport on Saturday morning. Asked if he was excited to join Arsenal, he replied: “Yeah, of course.”
Pablo Mari has just arrived at Heathrow with Edu and he tell me he is excited to be joining Arsenal.
Medical to take place this weekend. pic.twitter.com/6VY1RM3wJL
— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) January 25, 2020
An image had previously surfaced on Twitter which appeared to show the defender sat in an airport lounge with the club’s technical director, Edu. The same social media account also posted a screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation claimed to be part of Mari’s farewell to his Flamengo teammates.
ICYMI: Edu was spotted with Pablo Mari at the Airport last night. They are most likely on BA248 flight which is due to land in the UK around 12pm. pic.twitter.com/B3NamDiEiA
— Arsènic™ (@MrArsenicTM) January 25, 2020
Since taking over as Arsenal manager, Arteta has had to juggle various injury issues, especially in defence with the likes of Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney all struggling for fitness.
In a recent press conference, the Spaniard did admit centre-back is an area in which he’s looking to strengthen.
“We are looking at different positions, obviously since I joined we lost Calum [Chambers] and we had other circumstances and injuries in that position so it’s true that at the back we have been short,” he told reporters.
What could Pablo Mari offer Arsenal?
In the same press conference, Arteta mentioned that he’d only be signing players he felt could improve on those he already has, indicating he has faith Mari can make a difference to the Arsenal defence.
The Spaniard has gone from strength to strength since leaving Manchester City on a permanent basis last summer, helping Flamengo win the 2019 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A and Copa Libertadores titles.
No Flamengo player made more interceptions (3) than Mari during the final of the latter — where the Brazilian giants staged a late comeback to beat River Plate 2-1 — while he also made three clearances and won two aerial duels.
The 26-year-old scored two goals in the Brazilian top-flight last season and will certainly offer Arteta an aerial threat from set-pieces but, after all, it’s his defensive capabilities which will be desired most.
Mari shows composure when in one-on-one duels against opposition attackers, refusing to go to ground early or dive into tackles. Furthermore, he averaged 2.9 clearances per 90 minutes in the Brazilian top-flight in 2019 — certainly a positive given Arsenal fans frustration at their side’s tendency to gift possession to the opposition around their own 18-yard box.
All in all, should this deal be completed as expected, Arteta will be getting his hands on a composed defender with a good reading of the game, but one who isn’t scared to get back to basics if his side is under immense pressure.