Pablo Mari has not been seen, or missed, for over 55 days now and it has been revealed the defender has Covid along with Albert Sambi Lokonga.
Back in October, Pablo Mari was reportedly ill, but he hasn’t been in an Arsenal matchday squad since September, nor had the club mentioned him until this weekend.
Asked about Lokonga’s illness, Arteta replied, “We have another player as well, Pablo has Covid, so unfortunately they will be out.”
It’s unlikely anyone would have asked about Mari, had Arteta not mentioned him.
I last spotted him in Arsenal training photos ahead of the game against Newcastle at the end of November.
Arteta was also asked about London Colney being deep-cleaned this week.
“Pure precaution,” Arteta said.
“We had some cases in the staff and we wanted to prevent any issues.
“Everybody that we’ve seen around us had a few cases and the cases have risen, so we wanted to protect our people and Gary [the club doctor] and the medical staff made the right call to close it for a day, make sure that all the tests from everybody was negative and make sure that when we’re back, everybody is safe.”
Mari, who is still only 28, signed for Arsenal from Flamengo for a crazy £7.2m loan fee before Arsenal paid another £5.4m for him, even though he has never been valued at more than £6.3m.
While Mikel Arteta has undergone a clearout of Unai Emery players, Mari was someone brought to the club under the watch of Arteta, even if Edu was more involved than the Spaniard.
Still, many eyebrows were raised when Arsenal paid such a large fee for Mari and his return on the pitch has proven the eyebrows correct.
An ankle injury ruled him out for 31 games in the 19/20 season while a calf problem kept him out of another six at the start of 2021.
In total, Mari has managed just 22 appearances for Arsenal, only 14 of which have been starts.
At the end of November, Brazilian reporter Gustavo Henrique claimed Flamengo insiders have made it clear to the reporter that they’re hoping to re-sign Pablo Mari from Arsenal.
Amid the speculation around Mari’s future, the Rio-based journalist claimed Flamengo want Mari back, but it’s not a simple deal.
Gustavo said: “I talked to an important person at the club who told me the following: ‘Gustavo, how can I say that Flamengo doesn’t want Pablo Mari’s return? It is evident that Flamengo wants to, but there are many details that need to be fixed for him to return.'”
It’s no real surprise to see conversations over Mari’s future beginning to happen.
As we covered, Mari is one of the players who has been almost completely excluded from Mikel Arteta’s squads for the last couple of months.
Mari’s last appearance in a Premier League squad was on September 18th against Burnley, and he’s only made one League Cup start against AFC Wimbledon since then.
The centre-back still has another three-and-a-half years on his contract, but it would be strange to see him sticking around much longer if the current situation continues.
As much as anything else, Arsenal have multiple centre-backs returning from loan spells to add to the congestion next summer.
Konstantinos Mavropanos will likely join VfB Stuttgart, but William Saliba is set to return. Daniel Ballard and Harry Clarke are both doing well this season, too, although the former is facing a lengthy spell out with a knee problem.
If Mari can’t even get in the squad now, that seems unlikely to change when you add one or two more into the mix.
The 28-year-old had a successful period with Flamengo the first time around, so he may well end up returning with excitement over a deal seemingly picking up pace this week.