Mikel Arteta says he’s found unlikely new Arsenal leader after “having to throw him in”

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Mikel Arteta says defender Pablo Mari has responded incredibly well to being "thrown" back into the Arsenal team.

The Spanish centre-back signed for the Gunners on loan from Brazilian club Flamengo last January, shortly after playing in the Club World Cup final against Liverpool in Qatar.

After an initial injury he finally broke into the team at the beginning of March, playing in the FA Cup at Portsmouth and then the Premier League victory at home to West Ham.

But then after football was plunged into lockdown, he returned in Arsenal's first game back at Manchester City in mid-June, only to go off injured in the first half and miss the rest of the season.

That absence extended into the beginning of this campaign, but after coming back into the team in the Europa League at the start of December, Mari has now played in the last three Premier League matches and the FA Cup victory over Newcastle at the weekend.

Mari has become "a leader" at the back according to Arteta
(Image: Newcastle United via Getty Image)

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Arteta is very impressed with a centre-back he used to oversee in his previous role at Manchester City, even though the 27-year-old failed to make a senior appearance for the club.

"We had to throw him in because we had some injuries and suspensions, it probably wasn’t really fair for him because he’s missed a lot of football in the last year," Arteta said after the win over Newcastle.

"But he’s a leader, he’s someone that trains really hard, he’s a professional, a great communicator on the pitch and he gives you some security and stability.

Arteta is very pleased with Mari's form since returning to the side
(Image: ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

"I think he’s done really well with Rob [Holding], he was really good again today with David [Luiz], three clean sheets in a row and he fully deserves the chance to play.

"He was really positive when he wasn’t playing, when he was injured and when he is playing, he is the same person all the time, trying to help everybody.

"He’s really professional, really eager to improve to give his best all the time in any capacity and any role and I think he is getting rewarded by his attitude."

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