Pablo Mari: The unsung hero
WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Pablo Mari of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns on January 02, 2021 in West Bromwich, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Pablo Mari's initially joined Arsenal on an initial loan basis almost a year ago, before making it a permanent switch back in June. 

Many were impressed with the Spanish defender in only a few appearances and so it was unfortunate when he suffered an ankle injury at the start of 'Project Restart' which ruled him out until the end of November, playing for the U23's.

After impressing in the Europa League, including scoring his first goal for the club, and the absence of the likes of David Luiz and Gabriel Magalhães, he was slotted into the Premier League starting eleven and since then his impact has inspired the Gunners to win three out of three games, including two clean sheets.

Defensive Stability

If you read the reactions of the Flamengo fans, Mari's former team, after his performances in the Europa League, it is clear that he can be and has been key to the success of a team. By their reactions alone it is clear that they miss him and Arsenal need to appreciate his qualities more.

What many have alluded to when describing Mari, is as an old-school type of defender who carries an authority about his play and may not be the flashiest player in the world, but will get the job done.

At 27 years old, he brings to the team an experience level, which helps him to bring calmness to the team, especially across the backline, which in turn can provide confidence to the other defenders, helped mainly by his excellent communication skills.

The stats help to provide context into just how good he has been since returning from injury. In his three Premier League appearances this season, he has a 100% tackle success with 12 clearances, seven of which coming from his head, emphasising his demanding presence at the back.

There aren't many top left sided centre backs and so the addition of Mari in the squad has been a big welcome. But the way in which he has composed himself and planted his authority in the Gunners defence has made him more than just a good squad player and its likely he will be kept in the starting team.

Composure On The Ball

Like any top modern defender, Mari not only offers quality off the ball when defending, but also quality on it when starting attacks.

Averaging 62 passes a match in the league implies that he is very much a defender who wants to get involved in building up from the back, which Arsenal have been reliant on, throughout the season.

Mari is very calm on the ball as well, not being one to rush a pass or force himself to go back. He has managed eight successful long balls in the league, allowing Arsenal's attackers to break through on goal at a quicker rate, as seen with Luiz as well.

As generally one of the first players to start an attack from Bernd Leno's goal, he needs to be quick to think ahead of time and this is something he does well, as a player with a very good understanding of the game, which allows him to be a good link with the players around him. 

Holding Partnership

With injuries hitting Arsenal quite badly, Mari alongside Rob Holding, have been entrusted to sure up the defence and so far have done a brilliant job, conceding just the one goal together in the league.

As explained, Mari is a very confident and composed individual, attributes which have rubbed off onto Holding during their time together. Holding had been receiving criticism at the start of the season for some shaky moments, but with Mari next to him, he appears to have found his mojo playing arguably his best since moving to North London.

Mari speaks very good English and so language barriers haven't been a problem, allowing for consistency between the pair and the rest of the team.

Both players are playing on their preferred side in the centre of defence allowing them to better perform their role at the back meaning a much more organised defence, something Arsenal have been searching for in a left sided centre back, with Mari.

It might not have been the centre back pairing that the Arsenal faithful would have imagined as their best one, but it is certainly working and there is little reason to change it.

It is clear that Mari has slotted straight into this Arsenal side and he has not only played a pivotal role keep his team solid at the back, but has been a real leader for those around, often being the first to celebrate a goal or a save. 

The way he is playing, it is hard to see Mari losing his place and offers Mikel Arteta a welcome headache, over who to select in his defence.