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Can Arsenal's new signing Pablo Mari improve their shaky defence?

  • A quick review over Arsenal's transfer of Pablo Mari from Flamengo.
Giulio Prifti
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 31 Jan 2020, 18:34 IST

Liverpool FC v CR Flamengo - FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019
Liverpool FC v CR Flamengo - FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019

On Saturday, the 21st of December, the final of the FIFA Club World Cup took place in Qatar. Liverpool and Flamengo fought out the 16th winner of this glorious tournament, as both teams were crowned continental champions in the previous season.

The game was surprisingly tight and despite the English club winning after a decisive goal in the 99th minute, the South Americans prove their abilities. In the otherwise exclusively Brazilian starting eleven, was one interesting exception: the Spanish defender Pablo Mari, who is one of few, to win the Copa Libertadores as a European.

 In the 120 minutes of the game, Mari was able to show his best football. He won most of his aerial duels, played many progressive passes and won all but one of his attempted tackles. The 26-year-old proved that he, despite playing in the Brazilian Série A, possesses the ability to keep up with the best attackers in the world. However, who is the Spaniard, who was able to join one of England's biggest clubs after an unorthodox career route, and how can he help Arsenal FC?

Pablo Mari started his career in the youth system of RCD Mallorca, from which he joined the third-tier club Gimnàstic de Tarragona, which are located in Catalonia. For "Nàstic" the player made his professional debut and shone in the second division, where his team played during that time. Despite the rather low level of the league, his great performances attracted some big interest, as Manchester City bought Mari ahead of their 16/17 season for £180k.

However, despite some decent loan spells at Girona, NAC Breda, and Deportivo La Coruna, he never got a chance in the first team of the "Citizens", who decided to ship the player off to South America.

At Flamengo, the 26-year-old immediately earned himself a starting spot in one of the most talented and successful teams in the recent history of Brazil. The only European in the squad started 30 games for them and became a crucial first team member, after the departure of Leo Duarte towards Milan.

 After just one year, consisting of great and reliable performances for Flamengo, the player attracted some great interest from the Gunners, who decided to get him, after a complex and long-lived transfer saga. Nonetheless, is Pablo Mari good enough for the struggling London-based club?

One of the defenders' biggest assets is his secure and accurate passing. He likes to play long balls behind the opposing backline, which reach the designated attackers more often than not. This trait is aided by his calmness in possession and a solid but not outstanding technique.

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Flamengo v River Plate - Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores 2019
Flamengo v River Plate - Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores 2019

Mari is also immense in the air, which is not surprising considering his huge frame and great understanding of the game. This ability also helps him at defending on the front foot, which means he is able to break up counter-attacks of opponents in a smart and aggressive manner. The player combines his reading of the game with solid physical attributes, as he only is dribbled past 0.4 times a game, in the pacey and skillful Brazilian first division.

One of his weaknesses may be a lack of speed, as the defender, especially considering his huge frame, is not very agile and mobile. However, despite this obvious flaw, the Spaniard is not outpaced too much, as he possesses some great positional sense.

In conclusion, Pablo Mari is a good and solid defender, who improved massively within the last year. On paper, the player looks like a complete option for the team's defense, yet you never know, how top performers from outside of Europe transition into better and faster leagues, which make this transfer a big surprise box. However, I think the new transfer owns everything a modern center back needs and considering he is fluent in English, he should ease into the Arsenal squad without a lot of problems.

Published 31 Jan 2020, 18:34 IST
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