Arsenal’s forgotten man could solve defensive problems as fans hail ‘underrated’ star

Arsenal: Arteta reacts to 1-0 win over Brighton

Arsenal defender Pablo Mari has been hailed by fans after his performance for Mikel Arteta’s side in their 1-0 win over Brighton. The centre-back showed signs he could help solve the Gunners’ defensive issues with an assured display in Tuesday’s Premier League clash at the Amex Stadium.

Mari joined Arsenal on loan from Flamengo in this year’s January transfer window as Arteta looked to shore up the Gunners leaky defence.

The Spaniard made just a handful of appearances before being sidelined by an ankle injury – but that didn’t stop Arteta from signing him on a permanent deal in the summer.

And the 27-year-old showed why his manager has such faith in him with an encouraging display as the Gunners beat Brighton thanks to Alexandre Lacazette’s winner.

With summer signing Gabriel Magalhaes and veteran David Luiz both injured, Mari had made his first Premier League appearance of the season in Saturday’s win over Chelsea, having been eased back into competitive action in the Europa League.

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He built on his performance against Chelsea by keeping a clean sheet alongside Rob Holding at Brighton – and some impressive stats emerged after the game thanks to AFTV on Twitter.

Mari had 85 touches, made 74 passes and had a pass rate of 91%. He also won four duels, made three blocks and the same number of ball recoveries, made two clearances and one tackle.

And Arsenal fans felt he can help solve the team’s long-standing issues dealing with aerial balls.

One supporter said on Reddit: “He looks very good. Very dominant in the air which helps with keeping up the pressure.”

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Another agreed, saying: “Some air power will really help us see out games.”

Another fan described as Mari as “really underrated”, while a fellow Gunners supporter predicted Mari would replace Luiz in Arteta’s defence.

“He’s a decent player, who has experienced a lot that our youngsters have not,” the fan wrote. “Seems to be a good role model as well.

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“Would allow us to get rid of David Luiz this summer. He can fill his shoes with ease. Don’t think he minds being a back up (more than enough matches to play for him) and it would give us room to rest Gabriel from time to time. I definitely don’t feel exposed when he is playing.”

Arsenal are away to West Brom on Saturday before hosting Newcastle United in the FA Cup third round a week later.

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