Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has heaped praise on one Arsenal player for his brilliant performances over the last four games.
The Gunners boss was under a ton of pressure before the game against Chelsea in December. Our best defender Gabriel Magalhaes was ruled out, as was David Luiz which left us short at the back.
Arteta had to bring someone in and he picked Pablo Mari. The Spaniard, signed by Edu last January from Flamengo, has had a torrid time with injuries.
Mari played just three games for us before suffering a horrific ankle injury in June. He had to undergo surgery and that kept him out for over four months. It’s never a good idea to rush injured players back, but Arteta had no choice on Boxing Day.
The Arsenal boss admitted that throwing Mari into the deep end was not fair to the £85,000-a-week (Spotrac) man. However, he has been brilliant and Arteta sang praises of him.
He told The Telegraph: “We had to throw him in because we had some injuries and suspensions and it probably was not even fair for him because he has missed a lot of football in the last year.”
“But he is a leader. He is someone who trains really hard, he is really professional. He is a great communicator on the pitch and he gives you some security, some stability. Three clean sheets in a row — he fully deserves his chance to play.”
“When he was not playing, when he was injured, when he is playing, all the time he is the same person, trying to help everybody. He is really professional, really eager to improve, to be at his best all the time in any capacity and any role. He is getting rewarded for his attitude.”
Arteta now has a difficult decision to make
Mari and Rob Holding have formed a tremendous partnership at the back. The duo have conceded just once in the three games they have played together, and it does look like that is the way forward for Arteta.
However, Gabriel Magalhaes – arguably our best player this season – has returned to full training. The Brazilian has had an incredible start to life as an Arsenal player, but Mari’s performances will make his return not so straightforward.
It will be interesting to see what Arteta decides in the coming days. Dropping Mari to accommodate Gabriel would be harsh on the Spaniard, but keeping the former Lille man away from the side wouldn’t be fair either considering how good he was before his illness.