Why Pablo Mari should be preferred to Gabriel in Arsenal’s First XI

Why Mari Is the One by AI

Gabriel Maghalaes is a physical phenomenon. Tall, strong and left-footed, he is exactly the kind of defensive prospect that Arsenal need at the moment. However, physical quality alone is not enough to be a good defender. There are other important intangibles involved. Unfortunately, this is where Gabriel falls short and has the most developing to do.

Communication is essential in defending. Football is a fast sport and the ball bounces everywhere. Organization is needed, and completely impossible if defenders do not communicate with one another well. This is why loud, organizing personalities are treasured among defenders. Gabriel does not yet speak English and cannot communicate well with Leno, Holding or Tierney. This is obvious on the pitch. In his debut, Gabriel failed to communicate well with Leno about a loose pass and we almost conceded a goal. Against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup, the Brazilian often charged out without making sure the space he was leaving behind was covered. And against Aston Villa, another failure to communicate led to the loss of three points.

There have been many other instances that have gone unpunished and under the radar and while the defense was still generally solid, it was not until Pablo Mari, a former City player who has spent time in Brazil and Spain, came in that our defense became one of the best in the league.

Pablo Mari also has good physical qualities. He’s tall, strong and difficult to get around. But he’s not the fastest defender and can be spinned around. However, that rarely happens and this is because Mari exhibit a trait of the absolute elite defender: controlled aggression.

Arsenal’s Spanish defender Pablo Mari (L) comes under pressure from Brighton’s Argentinian midfielder Alexis Mac Allister during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Arsenal. (Photo by MIKE HEWITT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Controlled aggression is basically all about being patient and decisive, never diving into tackles too early, especially when an attacker is facing you and there’s space in behind. This is what Virgil Van Dijk is all about. Top centrebacks control space and employ their physical defensive prowess only at the right moment. They are methodical, patient, not falling for easy tricks. If they control space well, it is difficult for an attacker to get behind them, and in that way, a promising attack can be snuffed out of life.

Mari is calm and decisive. Whereas Gabriel overly relies on his physical qualities by quickly trying to win the ball, the Spaniard is a zonal defender, holding his position and forcing the attacker to make the initiative. This brings calm to the backline. Even if he’s beaten, the other defenders are aware of the situation because it is slowed down and predictable. Charging out headlessly means chaos: your partnering defenders have less time to cover if you don’t win the ball and are forced to abandon their zones, leaving even more space. Most Arsenal fans remember a certain German World Cup winner that was often guilty of this.

Apart from that, Mari can speak English, Spanish and Portuguese. He can communicate with anyone in the backline and organize better. His passing is also less aggressive and more patient. This is why our defense need Mari more than Gabriel right now.

Gabriel will become an even better defender over time but as of now, Mari is the one.

Agboola Israel

READ MORE: More bad news for Arsenal regarding Thomas Partey

Tags Gabriel Magalhaes Mari


  1. Mari ahead of Gabriel all day long.

    The Brazilian has been involved in too many goals for the opposition to stay ahead of Mari who’s been brilliant recently.

  2. Your last statement confirms to me of your unique intelligence, Gabriel Magalhaes will be better but for now he has to learn a lot of things most especially english

  3. Mari was a part of our winning team before he got injured and he also has more experience than Magalhaes, so I believe Arteta would start him ahead of Magalhaes in the left CB position if he’s fit

  4. Mari should be ahead agreed.

    The issue is with Arsenal out of so many competitions now we will actually be relying on injuries to get Gabriel experience which is unfortunate.

  5. If everyone is fit, this is currently my first 11.


    Martinelli. Smith-Rowe. Saka.

    Xhaka. Partey.

    Tierney. Mari. Holding. Cedric.


    Second 11.


    Willian. Odegaard. Pepe.

    Ceballos. Elneny.

    Chambers. Gabriel. Luiz. Bellerin.


  6. A very good article with which I concur.Unfortunately for us Mari seems to be injury prone, and because of this Arteta has not been able to play him on a regular basis.Gabriel has a lot to learn, and quite frankly I have doubts if he will make the grade even if his communication skills improve.I sincerely hope he proves me wrong.To me Holding and Mari are our best CB pairing, but hopefully Saliba will break through with us next season.

  7. It is super frustrating that 3 of our best players are injury prone. Tierney, Partey and Martinelli.

    What kind of training are they having. It is so concerning and alarming.

    Imagine if these 3 players have been without injury for the whole of the season. Their constant contributions would have pushed us up the table.

    This is why we have to do more clear outs and sign able deputies.

    1. Or sign new physios that know how to keep players fit. That would cost us less than going after players, I bet a few already turn us down because they know our training ground is full of spikes!

  8. Have a big heart to make strong decisions Arsenal and the Management.
    Laca is my first to trade. He is damping the motivation of the rookies to grow.
    If he is what he is rated for most teams would have been asking to buy him or would have been playing for France.
    Take a lesson from the emergence and surging career for SAKA. Emery Urai did not give him a chance. But look where is he now.
    What about Harry Kane, he was in Arsenal like the young one now and was told would not make the First XI and had to go to SPURS!!!.

  9. Yes, AI you’ve made a good point in support of Mari whom you preferred seeing him regularly starting games for Arsenal ahead of Maglhaes.

    But I must say Maglhaes cannot be a misfit CB signing by Arsenal last summer window, or is he? Nevertheless, I think it’s left to the Arsenal gaffer Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff to help Maglhaes overcome whatever defensive deficiencies he might be having that will make him become an accomplished left sided centreback defender for Arsenal as time goes on.

    And I think Runarsson was in goal for Arsenal in their home loss to Man City in the Carabao Cup match but not Leno I should think. And I think there was a justArsenal article on Runarsson’s flapping hands goalkeeping in the match that led to the Gunners conceding 4 goals to Man City with Arsenal scoring just once in the match. So, if Maglhaes had manned one of the two CB positions for Arsenal in the match, I wouldn’t know if he’s lack of communicating properly with his goalkeeper had led to Runarsson conceding 4 times in the match.

    But after Man City knocked out Arsenal in that Carabao Cup match, Arsenal signed a new goalkeeper. And Arteta dropped Runarsson in the away match to Aston Villa in the PL and started the newly signed keeper in the match.

  10. I agree that Mari is ahead of Gabriel at the moment. Defending needs maturity and he needs time to learn. I think his confidence has been knocked. On the communication front, didn’t he have a wobble with Cedric which led to the goal? Don’t they both speak Portuguese?

  11. For the umpteenth time there is nothing wrong with most of our players. They are being badly coached, over-controlled, by a touchline haunting fanatically obsessed manager. The players can’t creatively breathe. He stunts creativity and holds on to emotional difficulties with players. He has useless favourites and bins his ‘enemies’, those who stand their ground. He is the worst manager since Terry Neil. He talks the talk and convinces you with smooth patter that it’s everybody else but not him. It is him. There is no walk the walk, like Brendan Rogers, Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola. Arteta is too conflicted with style, tactics and players to lead our team. He will be gone next season, so why not now? He is a flailing rookie.

    1. About as utterly wrong as it is possible for any human to be! As you are so certain he will be gone next season, then accept my bet, any amount at all, that he will be here still!

      1. Jon
        Firstly I don’t bet, secondly I’m aware you were in some relationship to theatre, and I do not have your exaggerated dramatic character. I believe what I say. Wait and see what happens….then you will have full recourse to challenge me. Yours is just as much opinion as is mine….so don’t make out you have some extra second sight. Remember too that half on this site also think Arteta should go….. so you are challenging them too. We shall see who turns out to be right. You can bet with yourself….you might win.

      2. Whether he is here or not next season is erroneous on all accounts.

        The question is….should he be here next season?

    2. @S.J, Arsenal best defensive pairing is Mari & Luiz, we rarely concede when they are paired & our most experienced defender Luiz should always start when fit. He alone organises others properly.

  12. Lots of experts here. you all should apply for Arteta’s Job and go ahead to win us a champions league Medal.

  13. Mari is million miles ahead of Gabriel in terms of ability, passing, tempo all things. There’s no rocket science there and no need to beat around the bush.

    I’ve been saying this all along that Gabriel was a bad buy from the start and is just an accident waiting to happen.

    Cedric… Luiz… Mari… Tierney
    Willian… Partey… Odegaard
    Saka… Lacazette… Pepe

    That’s the strongest lineup that a “proper” manager chooses not those based on impulse and gambling.

  14. He played 3 games, against Chelsea he gave a soft penalty, and the other two were easy games for the defence. We can’t say by that he is better than Gabriel.

  15. There are no easy games in the premier league. Mari’s qualities are his calmness, tactfulness and physicality.
    We will see their performance in the remaining games of the season.

  16. A lot of people commenting seem to have forgotten that Gabriel was our player of the month for the first 3 months! It’s taken him longer than expected to fully recover and yes he looked rusty recently but at full strength Gabriel starts for me.

  17. For those who rate Mari over Gabriel moving forward, are you even watching our games?…Mari is slower, a much worse passer, especially any pass requiring any distance or touch over the top, he has just as many carded offences(Gab got a red, but Mari gave up a Luiz-like penalty), Mari is constantly injured and has faced much less offensively-minded clubs so far…I believe Mari was brought here to help Arteta coach-up the younger defenders, due to their connection from City, and to provide credible cover…Gabriel was brought here to be a future centerpiece CB and should be treated as such

    1. Most people have forgotten 2 things

      Gabriels brilliant form in a new league

      After effects of Covid on the lungs for months

    2. As in for the future and not at the moment you mean? I would play mari and try gab as a left back while tierney is injured , he has the pace for it , I’m not sure hes ever played there but soares at LB is a liability

  18. Wow Y’all have forgotten that Gabriel was voted player of the months for 3 months? I bet none of you was askibg for him to be dropped during that time. Mari has played has only played 3 games and already gave one silly penalty. He had only faced one good attacking team and the rest are below average teams. I am not saying Mari is bad but there is no enough data to prove that he is better than Gabriel.

  19. unsure why ppl think Gabriel has been bad since his return. I guarentee we put Mari back and he underperforms. Too reactionary to switch up.

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