The Spanish centre-back – on loan from Flamengo – made his debut during Monday night’s FA Cup win at Portsmouth.
Martin Keown considers Pablo Mari has to be given more chances after his remarkable Arsenal debut.
The Spanish centre-back was handed his first Gunners beginning on Monday night and made a reassuring showing as Mikel Arteta’s side booked their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 2-0 win at Portsmouth.
Keown was at Fratton Park at night and watched on as Mari formed a powerful partnership with David Luiz in the heart of the visitors’ defence.
It was the 26-year-old’s first appearance since his January loan move from Flamengo and although Portsmouth offered little regarding attacking threat, Mari’s composure on the ball and his reading of the game brought plenty of plaudits.
Mikel Arteta singled out his new registering for praise after the game and Keown was impressed.
“He did not have a whole lot to do besides his supply,” the three-time Premier League winner advised Goal. “But he won everything when needed.
“You could see he was a tiny bit short of fitness and that they’re building him up. He appears to have the foundation of a fantastic player there.
“There were significant first steps on Monday night, even though he was not tested that much because in the second half Arsenal completely dominated possession – it was a tiny soccer lesson for Portsmouth.”
Speaking as an ambassador for the FA and McDonald’s Grassroot Football Awards, Keown added:”I think he seemed very solid, he’s got the height in inches. You examine the prestige of the player and he won everything in the atmosphere.
“He was not rapid but was fast enough to cope with all the scenarios.
“We were playing against a League One side who had a lone striker so that he and David Luiz managed to boss him between the both of them.
“I think it was significant that he’d Luiz together with him to talk him throughout the game. Now we must give him time, he needs to be given more chances.”
Whether Mari will start against West Ham on Saturday from the Premier League remains to be seen, with Arteta having opted for a partnership of Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi lately.
The remarkable form of this much-maligned Mustafi was a big talking point in 2020, with the German – whose career at Arsenal appeared to be over when Unai Emery was in control – loving his best run at the side for a while.
Keown considers the 28-year-old deserves real credit for how he’s turned things around, but nevertheless feels that finally Arteta will wish to bring in someone else as soon as the summer transfer window opens.
“In fairness to the player [Mustafi] I really do think he has shown lots of personality and character in coming back into the team because once you make these sort of errors, I felt a bit of fear him around,” said the Arsenal legend.
“So all credit to Arteta for giving him another chance, but long-term it is a place where the manager might want to strengthen.”