Arsenal look set to make their first signing of the January transfer window as Spanish defender Pablo Mari has flown into London for a medical.
The 26-year-old, formerly of Manchester City, was pictured in conversation with technical director Edu at an airport in Rio, before arriving into Heathrow with the Brazilian earlier today. The Gunners are said to be taking the Flamengo centre-back on loan with an option to buy at the end of the season.
Mari would be Mikel Arteta’s first signing since his arrival at the Emirates, who of course knows his Spanish compatriot from the defender’s underwhelming time at City, where he was shipped out on loan for three seasons before leaving without making a single appearance for the Premier League champions.
A tough-tackling 6’3 centre-back, Mari has enjoyed a stellar time with Flamengo since his arrival, winning the Copa Libertadores and impressing in the FIFA Club World Cup final against Liverpool. He also has three goals and one assist to his name in all comps this season.
If Arsenal’s problems keeping clean sheets wasn’t bad enough with a fully strong defensive contingent, injuries and suspensions leave Arteta with a very limited back line to choose from. Sokratis has recovered from illness in time for the FA Cup clash with Bournemouth, but will be without the suspended David Luiz and the long-term Calum Chambers.
The makeshift centre-back duo of Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi, barring the latter’s early mistake, performed valiantly in the second half at Stamford Bridge, but this is clearly not a partnership Arteta can rely on in the long-term. And to be perfectly honest, neither are Sokratis and Luiz, both being in their 30’s. Chambers and Rob Holding are never guarantees with their fitness either, so this transfer can only be looked at positively from an Arsenal fan’s perspective.
If YouTube compilations are anything to go by, we can expect to see a commanding, strong defender who isn’t afraid to dive into a challenge, but is also comfortable on the ball and a formidable presence in the air. And with a potential fee of £7.5m for a permanent deal, compared to the £30m valuation for Ukranian target Mykola Matviyenko, this cut-price deal for Mari won’t eliminate all our defensive concerns, but it sure would be a good start.
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