Arsenal has completed the signing of Pablo Mari from Flamengo on a £7million deal. Initially reported as a loan move, it’s now been revealed that the 26-year-old is joining Arsenal permanently. This is the first signing of the Mikel Arteta era and it’s not as random as you think when you consider Mari was a Manchester City player for three seasons before moving to Brazil.
Arsenal’s shocking defence has been cited by many as their downfall. The Gunners have conceded 24 goals in the league this season, the second-most of anyone in the top 10. The arrival of Mari will hopefully negate that trend, especially when you consider the number of possibilities with him in the starting XI.
Here’s how Arsenal could line-up with new signing Pablo Mari.
One thing that must be noted about the Spaniard, he will be the only left-footed CB as the club. This opens a lot of possibilities for new boss Arteta. This will allow Mari to play on the left-hand side of any defensive set up, thus providing a platform for more comfortable passing out from the back. Notably in a back three, Mari could play as the outer CB on the left. Progression of play up the pitch would be quicker, and you’d see less uncomfortable moments at the back for Arsenal in the build-up.
A back three is not something we’ve seen Arteta deploy, perhaps because of the difficulties it’d be present in the build-up, but Mari’s arrival negates those challenges. In a three of Sokratis, Luiz & Mari, Arsenal would possess the experience, physicality, positioning and organisation needed for the Gunners to deploy a compact back three.
It’s quite clear that Mikel Arteta favours playing a fluid 4-2-3-1. The formation allows the Gunners to be compact in defence but also wide in attack. The pivot in the middle often consists of Lucas Torreira who sits deep shielding the back four alongside Granit Xhaka who looks to dictate play.
In a defensive two, Mari would most likely partner David Luiz as it’d give the team an evenly balanced right-footed and left-footed CB pairing. Such balance is vital in a back four as there isn’t the cover that’s available in a three. In a four, CBs are inclined to make more passes and are often taken on out wide more frequently, so it’s imperative they’re leaning towards their favoured foot.
Pablo Mari has been described as an aggressive defender that organises his team well enough to play a high line. This is exactly what Arsenal need, as you don’t always have to be fast to play in a high line. You can point to the example of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng in their heydays at Bayern Munich as the duo used their exceptional positioning and organisation to play a high line in Germany.
For the measly price of £7.5 – £9million, Pablo Mari is a steal in today’s market. If Arteta has picked this man, then he clearly has the attributes to implement his newfound philosophy. With the Gunners in the midst of a defensive crisis, the arrival of Pablo Mari brings a much-needed lift to the Emirates.