Pablo Mari has joined the Gunners on loan until the end of the year so here is a look at which player are his best centre-back spouse
Pablo Mari is finally an Arsenal player and will be expected to slot straight into Mikel Arteta’s plans for the rest of this season.
The Spaniard arrives in north London initially on loan – using a £4million fee – but the Gunners do have the option to make the move permanent in the summer.
Mari won’t solely be just another body for Arteta but a useful tool in his system. The 26-year-old is currently Arsenal’s sole left-footed centre-back which may benefit them both with and without ownership. A very good passer of the ball, he will bring more balance when they try and build from the back but being naturally left-footed could also bring more stability when teams try to attack down the Gunners’ left.
Since Arteta’s arrival, David Luiz has emerged as a crucial area of the side. Much-improved in defence, the Brazilian was quickly becoming one of Arsenal’s better players at the beginning of the year.
Alongside his defensive contributions, Arteta looked to unlock his superb passing ability once more. To do so, he instructed Granit Xhaka to drop to the left of Luiz to create more space for the Brazilian to run into and dictate play.
Mari joining may cause a slight tweak to this setup, however, as Luiz has been playing as a left-sided centre-back. Left-footed, Mari would probably take that position, forcing Luiz into the right side of this defence. This could work well for Arteta, however, as he would have two centre-backs who are familiar with the ball playing on their preferred sides.
In Luiz’s absence, Xhaka has continued to drop into the remaining left-sided centre-back so that would last with Mari. If anything, it opens the possibility for Arsenal to become as potent down the right-wing as they’ve become down the left as Luiz will be able to begin moves there while Mari does the same on the left.
So looking at how Arteta has already been shaping his defence, this may be the fit he deems best for this season.
When looking at Arsenal’s current defenders, Sokratis is the most robust in his approach. At times he has been nothing short of awkward but at others, his no-nonsense attitude has been just what the Gunners have needed.
Under Arteta, the Greek has shone even more as a result. With Luiz tasked to construct play, Sokratis is more reserved and concentrated on defending first. Here, he’s stepped up, making the backline much more organized and stable and if Arteta wants to keep the yin and yang kind of venture then he’d be the guy to step up.
It’s still clear than Sokratis is not good on the ball, however, which is exactly what could hold him back. Luiz is superior in this region and has become more proactive when defending.
When he has been called upon under Arteta, he has been solid for most of his time spent on the pitch. His mistakes in the home and away fixtures against Chelsea are moments that seem too likely to occur, however.
The German matches the Luiz mould more than Sokratis but when all centre-backs have been available, he has not been favoured by the Arsenal head coach which indicates these mistakes take a toll.
Suffering an ankle sprain, Mustafi faces another uphill struggle to get into the starting XI at Arsenal but he could look to the early areas of the year for inspiration.
In Rob Holding’s case, he just doesn’t seem ready yet. While he suffered his ACL injury in December 2018, the 24-year-old still needs to find consistent matches under his belt to come back to his best form.
Replacing Mustafi in Bournemouth most of his work was defensive, where he looked better but his work in possession still requires work. Against Leeds United at the beginning of the month, the timing of his moves was away and he was caught out on a few occasions.
With the Europa League and FA Cup resuming next month, the centre-back will have an opportunity to prove himself once more, however. Should do well in these competitions he look to the business end of the season to attempt to partner Mari in the main starting XI. Right now would be too early.