Pablo Mari has slotted in admirably for Arsenal next to Rob Holding in Gabriel Magalhães’ absence.
With the younger Brazilian now returning, Mari can reprise his role on the bench. It’s safe to say that when Pablo Mari arrived from Flamengo that fans were unsure of his profile and bemused by the seemingly bizarre loan deal. The 27-year-old came with a decent reputation from Brazil and as one of the first real “Edu signings,” most sections of the Arsenal fanbase were willing to give him a chance to prove himself over a short-term loan.
Unfortunately, that good vibe didn’t last very long.
Mari made his FA Cup debut against Portsmouth and played the full 90 against West Ham in the Premier League, showing some decent signs of quality but by no means pulling up trees. Then disaster struck. The left-footed center-back promptly picked up a season-ending injury in the early moments of Arsenal’s diabolical Premier League defeat to Manchester City after Project Restart in June of 2020.
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It felt as though the wind was promptly and permanently taken out of the new signing’s sails and in a matter of weeks, Mari became the poster boy for Edu’s less than convincing transfer strategy.
All signs pointed to Arsenal writing the deal off as a failed experiment and allowing Mari to follow in the footsteps of Denis Suarez and Kim Källström. However, most fans were shocked when Mari’s loan deal was made permanent for a reported fee of £14m (there is debate over this) without the player really even kicking a ball for the north London club.
Of course, this wasn’t Mari’s fault. His injury situation was unfortunate, but he in no way deserved the odd vilification that seemed to ensue after he put pen to paper on his multi-year contract. Mari became a public whipping boy by fans and Arsenal critics alike who attempted to use the Spaniard’s sputtering start as an example of dire mismanagement.
It’s taken quite some time but Mari has temporarily shut the doubters up. After a lengthy rehab, Mari has seemingly come to the aid of Arsenal during the club’s darkest hour. As results began to nose-dive all seemed lost when one of the shining lights of the season, Gabriel Magalhães picked up a suspension for a red card against Southampton – which was compounded when the defender then contracted COVID-19.
With David Luiz‘s form and relationship with the manager both in precarious positions, Mari’s return from injury could not have been better timed.
Mari has slotted in admirably next to Rob Holding in the center of Arsenal’s defense and together the two players have overseen an admittedly short but desperately needed winning streak. Mari has proven to be a competent defender, with an impressive range of passing and aerial dominance.
He plays like someone who knows that this is the pinnacle of his career, and that to some degree he should be very grateful for the opportunity set before him. This graciousness could be seen when Mari wrapped his arms around Bernd Leno after the German keeper stymied Jorginho’s penalty in the dying moments of Arsenal’s massive victory over London rivals Chelsea.