Saturday, April 15, 2023

Worse than Mustafi: Arteta must finally offload Arsenal’s “really poor” £88k-p/w flop – opinion

Arsenal’s squad have been largely faultless this season, with a group of high-quality players all finally pulling in the same direction.

This is far from groundbreaking when challenging for a Premier League title, but given the tumultuous dressing rooms that the Emirates has played host to over the years, this turnaround has been sensational.

Mikel Arteta has fostered such an environment through the ruthless culling of those he did not deem worthy, and the additions of some experienced positivity in the form of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Some of the more notable casualties of the Spaniard’s early regime were Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil, both of whom were at one point vital to the team and fan favourites.

However, their work-shy natures did not resonate with the revolution, and they had to go.

Whilst most of the business done since his 2020 appointment would deservedly be lauded, it is actually the first transfer of the Arteta reign that has arguably fallen the flattest. The decision to sign an unknown Spanish centre-back for £12m may have raised eyebrows at the time, but few could have predicted just how troublesome Pablo Mari would find adapting to the English game.

Subsequent loans have only served to elongate his failing spell in north London, which must come to an end this summer.

Will Pablo Mari leave this summer?

Having moved to the Emirates with little reputation, it quickly became clear that the 29-year-old would be nothing more than a squad player after making just ten league appearances in his debut campaign.

This is a figure that would only dwindle the season following, leading to the first of two loans he has endured.

Having spent the whole current season in Italy playing for Monza, his 6.85 average rating is solid if unspectacular. However, with the likes of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes for competition back at his parent club, it is far from the required level the defender needs to be at to actually challenge for a place.

At this rate, the £88k-per-week dud will leave north London having made a total of 22 appearances for the club, perhaps for the best.

The legacy left would be a virtually anonymous one, perhaps even marking him out as a worse signing than Shokdran Mustafi.

Although often ridiculed for his shocking performances, of which there were plenty, the German defender was far from as bad as people make out. In his debut season, fresh from winning the World Cup, the £35m stopper averaged a 7.14 rating.

Throughout the four full years he enjoyed at Arsenal, that average figure would drop no lower than 6.97.

Whilst the 30-year-old will always be remembered for his high-profile blunders, he was not nearly as “really poor” – as once claimed by reporter Kaya Kaynak – as Mari has been.

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