Soccer

Arteta says Arsenal’s forgotten man "looking really good" as he eyes return

Mikel Arteta has praised Arsenal's forgotten man Pablo Mari for his work in training as the centre-back continues his rehabilitation from a serious ankle injury.

Mari, 27, joined the Gunners on loan in January but suffered the injury in his third appearance for the club – the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City in June.

Nonetheless, Arsenal opted to sign the Spaniard permanently from Flamengo and he has been working towards a return to fitness and a first appearance of the season.

While Arteta did not name a return date for Mari, he praised the player for his hard work to recover from injury with eye-catching displays at the training ground.

"He's looking really good in training," said the Arsenal boss. "Obviously he had a difficult surgery, he had a screw and sometimes you can react in an unexpected way inside, it was causing some inflammation in the joint all the time and his ankle was swelling.

"We had to take that out which was a setback. He's been working really hard and looks really good in training."

Arsenal's defence has been further weakened at times this season due to injuries sustained by Cedric Soares and Calum Chambers.

Who should start in central defence when all of Arsenal's defenders are fit? Have your say here.

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But Arteta – speaking ahead of the clash with Leeds – was full of praise for the "phenomenal" way his players are battling to return to full fitness.

He added: "We've been hit really hard with some big injuries, not only Pablo but Cedric as well. Two or three different incidents. Chambers as well.

"It is what it is what I can say is both of those players and the way they're trying to work to get back to their best has been phenomenal."

Arteta also hinted Joe Willock could feature in the trip to Elland Road after he starred with a goal in the 4-1 win over Molde before the international break.

"I mentioned with Joe that I've been really impressed with Joe the way he's handled the situation of not having much game time in the Premier League," Arteta said.

"The reflection of that is the way he's played in the Europa League when he had the minutes or the Carabao Cup. He has a chance like everybody else."

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