Remember this one for a pub quiz question in years to come - who was Mikel Arteta’s first signing at Arsenal?
The answer, we know now, is Pablo Mari. The 26-year-old Spanish defender arrives as loan cover for the Gunners, following injuries to the likes of Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi, who was stretchered off at the Vitality Stadium on Monday night during Arsenal’s 2-1 FA Cup victory over Bournemouth.
Will Mari become a name that your entire quiz team remembers or a Pointless answer though?
It could be a coincidence, but it’s likely that Mikel Arteta knows Pablo Mari from his time at Manchester City - despite the defender having never actually made an appearance for the Citizens.
Mari originally caught City’s eye in the Spanish second tier in Spain while playing for Gimnastic. The Eastlands outfit snapped him up before sending him back to Spain the next day in fact, where he moved on loan to Girona.
The signing of Mari came at an interesting time for City - Pep Guardiola had just been announced as manager and the club were recruiting heavily from Spain, with Nolito, Claudio Bravo and youth player Nabil Touaizi all joining around the same time.
Mari and the net
Mari’s first loan spell away from the Etihad wasn’t fruitful, as he only made eight appearances back in the Segunda Division for Girona, however a temporary move to the Eredivisie the following season proved to be a lot more beneficial for all parties.
The 6’3 defender became a hero at NAC Breda, who at the time had the youngest squad in European top-flight football. With Breda hovering over the relegation places in the Netherlands, Mari scored his only goal in a match against Heerenveen, which lifted his side out of the drop zone and secured three of the four points they needed for survival.
Mari captained the Dutch club in his spell there and was in the team of the month twice during his time in the Eredivisie. Not bad considering NAC Breda finished 14th out of 18.
Following his heroics in the Netherlands, Pablo Mari headed back to the Spanish second tier to aid Deportivo La Coruna’s bid for promotion and began to spark comparisons with seasoned Spanish centre-backs for his ability on the ball.
After ranking as the most accurate passer in the division, Mari remarked “it's just the way I have always played - trying to keep possession and use the ball wisely,” showing an attitude that will no doubt impress Arteta. The Spaniard was likened to Gerard Pique for his tall presence and excellent passing, though Mari is left-footed, unlike the Barcelona defender.
Mari will be Arsenal’s only left-footed centre-back in Arsenal’s back-line - right-footed Luiz, Sokratis and Holding all play on the left-hand side at times, so the addition of a player more comfortable on his left will be welcome for Arteta’s side, who want to play out from the back.
Mari has forged a partnership in the centre of defence alongside Rodrigo Caio, who he is just 11 days older than. The pair have operated a high line for Jorge Jesus’s side, with the club winning Brazil’s Serie A last season before following it up with their second-ever Copa Libertadores title against River Plate.
The only European in the team, Mari is the first Spanish player to have won the Copa Libertadores.
You know when you’ve just taken over a club on Football Manager and you check out the reserves and on loan players of European giants, just to check out the bargains and wonderkids you could probably blag for cheap? It seems like other clubs have the same idea.
Man City apparently had to bat away three requests from Premier League sides whilst Mari was on loan at Girona. Watford and Southampton were both reportedly keen on the defender too, with Birmingham City also competing for his signature before he went on loan to Deportivo.
While you’re here, why not take advantage of our brilliant subscribers’ offer? Get the game’s greatest stories and best journalism direct to your door for only £10.25 every three months – that’s just £3.15 per issue! Save money with a Direct Debit today
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.