Arsenal fear Pablo Mari will miss the remainder of the season with a “significant” ankle injury – but head coach Mikel Arteta insists the decision on whether to sign the defender on a permanent deal will not be affected by the setback.
The 26-year-old became the first Spaniard to win the Copa Libertadores in November with Flamengo and moved to the Emirates Stadium on loan two months later.
Mari may now have played his final game for the Gunners after limping off in the first half of Wednesday’s 3-0 Premier League defeat at Manchester City.
The PA news agency understands Arsenal paid a loan fee in the region of £4million to bring the defender in for the remainder of the 2019/20 season – but he has only featured three times.
A further £8m would need to be laid out to make Mari’s move from South America permanent but, despite an uncertain financial future for Arsenal, Arteta refused to rule out such a deal.
Asked if he wanted to sign Mari permanently, Arteta replied: “Yes. This cannot be affected just because a player gets injured doing his job and defending our club.”
Speaking of Mari’s injury, Arteta added: “It is not looking good with Pablo, it looks like a really nasty injury.
“The doctors were assessing him today and hopefully tomorrow we will have a better update but the first assessment wasn’t particularly positive.”
Arsenal also confirmed Arteta’s prognosis in their official team news bulletin, announcing a “significant injury which is currently undergoing further specialist assessment”.
While Mari will definitely not feature in Saturday’s game at Brighton, it remains to be seen if either club-record signing Nicolas Pepe or highest-earner Mesut Ozil return to the fold.
Ozil was left out of the 20-man squad completely at City, with Pepe an unused substitute.
Arteta said after the loss that Ozil’s omission was down to tactical reasons and has since spoken about Pepe, who he still wants to see more from since his big-money move last summer.
“He had a few issues but is feeling good now and has trained well the last week or so, hopefully we can see him very soon,” added Arteta.
“It is clear that his consistency has not been at the level that he can produce, he is the first one to accept that, that’s what I’m going to demand from a player of his level, calibre.
“He has to be producing every three days at the level that he can be. He has to be a player that makes the difference, that is a threat, generates fear in the opponents and gives us a big threat in the final third and his work rate has to be related as well with that kind of performance. He knows that.
“He is such a nice kid, trying really hard and you have to respect the timing, the way he has adapted for the first year as well. A lot happened to him and we have to understand that and he is willing and I’m sure we are going to get the best out of him, I’m convinced of that.
“It’s taking those flash moments into a consistent mode and that, for a creative wide player to do it, is a big task so every detail has to be counted because it makes huge a difference and his mentality as well.”
Arteta is likely to have a selection headache in defence with Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares also missing through injury, while Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka miss out in midfield.