The future of Arsenal defender Pablo Mari remains uncertain. The Spaniard last played a game in September and has no Premier League minutes since August. Mari has completely fallen out of contention for a place in the starting XI and sits behind Gabriel in the pecking order currently.
Brazilian club Flamengo have emerged as a possible destination for the defender. Mari previously played at Flamengo for one year, before moving to Arsenal on loan in January 2020. Arsenal made the move permanent in the summer transfer window by reportedly paying £6.8million.
As reported by Pain In The Arsenal, Brazilian journalist Gustavo Henrique recently addressed Flamengo’s interest to secure the services of the Spanish defender. Henrique said:
“It’s evident that Flamengo wants the player to return, however, they have to wait for the window to open”
“I talked to an important person at the club who told me the following: ‘Gustavo, how can I say that Flamengo don’t want Marí’s return? It is evident that Flamengo wants it, but there are many details that need to be fixed for him to return. Today, we still have no contact with Arsenal on this matter. But we don’t rule out anything’. So let’s wait for news.”
Arsenal have fairly decent depth in the centre-back position. Ben White and Gabriel have consolidated themselves as certain starters, while Rob Holding and Calum Chambers offer depth. Sead Kolasinac and Takehiro Tomiyasu are full-backs who can also play as centre-backs.
Nevertheless, Pablo Mari offers a slightly different skill-set. Being left-footed, he is more than a reliable and competent back-up for Gabriel in the LCB role, good at playing from the back. At 28 years of age, Mari still has a good bit of time left in his career.
Gabriel suffered a knee injury earlier this season, and in the case of such an occurrence again, Mari is the most competent option to take up the role. The Spaniard effectively challenged the Brazilian for the centre-half role last season and registered 900 minutes in the Premier League alone.
However, it is important to understand how Arsenal’s tactical alterations affect Arteta’s requirement. Arsenal have replaced Hector Bellerin with a more competent right-back in Tomiyasu. Integrating Ben White into the back-line and Thomas Partey finally settling into the double pivot role has allowed the Gunners to play an asymmetric 4-2-3-1, which lines up as a 3-4-3 in the attack.
Such a set-up requires the exterior centre-backs Gabriel and Tomiyasu to be more proactive. They should be willing to step up and join the mid-field or stop opposition counter-attacks. On paper, Tomiyasu is a full-back, while Gabriel is a centre back. But in-game, they perform very similar functions. This is evident from their heat-maps against Tottenham:
This affects Mari’s bid for a spot in the starting XI in 2 ways:
- The role calls for a more proactive style of defending. Pablo Mari is a more passive player best suited in a 4-man backline.
- The emergence of Nuno Tavares as a good backup option for the left-back role and his attacking abilities play a major factor. This means Kieran Tierney and Tavares can co-exist in the same system, in case of an injury to Gabriel. Tierney plays a similar role as the left centre-back for the Scotland National Team.
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While Pablo Mari is not completely obsolete, it does appear that his profile is not an ideal fit for the style of play Arteta wishes to implement at Arsenal. Considering how valuable a commodity left-footed centre-backs are in today’s market, Arsenal can hope to sell Mari for a decent fee.
In the best interests of both the player and the club, it makes more sense for Pablo Mari to seek a new team to represent. The deal will largely depend on how strong Flamengo’s interest is, and how much of Arsenal’s 7 million investment they are able to cover.
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