Having humiliated quite a few of them in his day, former Brazil star Rivaldo probably knows a thing or two about defenders. And let’s face it, a positive opinion on an Arsenal defender has been a rare occurrence in the last several years.
Nonetheless, the 47-year-old 2002 World Cup winner believes Pablo Mari will be a good fit at Arsenal and won’t have too much trouble getting used to the ways of the Premier League. As he revealed to the Evening Standard, Rivaldo is of the opinion that though he struggled to make an impact in Europe as a Manchester City loanee at Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna, he displayed fine defensive quality playing for Flamengo in Brazil.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is a very complete player for his position in the heart of defence, according to Rivaldo. He boasts aerial prowess which makes him a valuable asset at set-pieces at both ends of the pitch. He is quite capable of taking the ball far up the pitch when required to do so, and his passing range and accuracy are on a very high level. The Brazilian claims that his good opinion on Mari is universal within the football public in his country, and that Mikel Arteta now has a real gem on his hands.
Arsenal signed Mari on loan for the rest of the season of course, but as you probably know, they do have the option to sign him on a permanent deal when temporary one expires.
We are yet to see him in action in an Arsenal shirt, but his performance in the Club World Cup final against Liverpool, coupled with Rivaldo’s words, seems very promising. On the other hand, David Ornstein of The Athletic recently said Mari has been brought in purely as defensive cover, which seems far less promising if he is indeed to take a back seat to the likes of Sokratis Papastathopoulos or Shkodran Mustafi.