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Pablo Mari cannot be the centre-half solution

According to David Ornstein, Arsenal are likely to make Pablo Mari’s loan move a permanent one this summer. However, while the deal in question might be advisable, given the extent of the problems at the position, the Spaniard cannot be the centre-half solution.

Arsenal need centre-back help. As the performances at the position throughout the season have proven, they lack any semblance of a near-elite presence. Sokratis has declined, Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz are too error-prone, Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Dinos Mavropanos are either injured or unfit, while William Saliba will arrive in the summer as a fresh-faced 19-year-old with limited senior experienced and having never played in the Premier League before.

Many view the position as the greatest need in the squad, though not due to depth or a lack of options, simply because almost all of the players they have all possess critical flaws that cannot be overcome.

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It has been widely reported that Arsenal will look for a centre-half this summer. Head coach Mikel Arteta is keen to sign a central defender. And in 26-year-old Pablo Mari, who is currently at the club on a six-month loan after arriving from Flamengo in January, the club has an option that they might explore — his loan deal included a £10 million option-to-buy clause.

According to David Ornstein of The Athletic, Arsenal — and Arteta in particular — are keen on making his loan switch permanent:

“We know central defence is an area they are looking to strengthen <…> Mikel Arteta’s preference is to sign permanently a left-footed centre-half, and as such, I understand that it is very likely that they will make the loan deal for Pablo Mari into a permanent transfer for around £10 million, and that would satisfy Arteta’s need for the left-sided centre-half, but I am not exactly sure what else they will do, whether they will bring in another centre-half.”

Mari has played two games for the Gunners. He looked excellent against League One Portsmouth in the FA Cup, though was rarely tested, and then struggled as he was thrust into the rigours and physicality of Premier League a few days later, West Ham United’s Michail Antonio proving just how difficult attackers in English football can be to handle.

Signing a capable centre-back who you have worked with for six months, have had chance to get to know and scout — and a player who offers a left-footed option at a position where balance and partnerships are vital — for £10 million is a smart move. The current market is volatile at the best of times. Given the current situation, signing those that you know for palatable fees is a blessing.

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However, if Arsenal believe that Mari can be the solution to their centre-back problems, they will come in for a stark realisation soon. Mari’s experience stems from the second tier in Spain and Brazil. He has played two matches in England and never played a game for Manchester City despite being at the club for three years.

If he was to be the elite centre-back that the team requires, he would have proven it by now. Turing 27 in the summer, there will be limited growth in his game. If he was special, teams would have snapped him up, and yet Arsenal signed him on a loan with a cut-price option to buy. Mari was a smart acquisition and can be a more-than-suitable third or fourth-choice defender, but that is not what the team needs.

Next: Arsenal: Predicting the future of every loan player

Arsenal need elite play at the centre-back position, not just another body to the throw at the problem. This does not make Mari a poor signing, not at all. But he is not the solution at the position. More must be done.

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