Pablo Mari got a valuable 90 minutes under his belt on Sunday - but he left Emirates Stadium disappointed after our narrow defeat to Manchester City.
The central defender partnered Rob Holding at the back and, like the rest of the team, Mari was left to reflect on what might have been if we'd started the game better.
He spoke to Arsenal Media after the game. Here's a transcript of the interview:
Pablo, just the one goal in it in the end. How frustrating was it to concede that goal after just two minutes?
It was hard for us because we planned for the game really well. Everybody knew what we had to do and I think we did well but at the end we conceded a goal at the beginning of the game, and when you concede those kinds of details against these types of teams, you lose the game. We have to be hard, we have to be focused 100 per cent in the beginning of the game until 96 or 97 minutes. I think 99 per cent of the game we played really good, but at the end we lost because we conceded that detail in the game.
As you said, we responded really well after the goal. How pleased were you with the way the team pulled together to defend as a unit after conceding?
I'm really proud of them. We played well. I think we equalised the possession to 50:50, more or less. We were there, we competed against them in the middle, they didn't have the ball that they wanted. In that case, we played really well but at the end we cannot be happy because we lost the game. We have to learn, we have to improve, we have to be ready from the beginning of the game and we weren't. At the end, we lost the game.
It looked like a really tactical game, the way it was being played, from the sidelines. What was it like to be involved in?
I think it was a tactical game. I think on the pitch we probably had the two best coaches in the world, or two of the best ones. I think they had a battle on the pitch. We tried to do our best, we planned really well ahead of the game. They had real issues when they wanted to go to the final third, they didn't have too many shots on target, so our plan was good. But at the end, we lost the game.
As a central defender, you're coming up against not one striker, but four midfielders who are rotating all the time. How difficult is that for you and for Rob?
It's so difficult to play against a false nine, especially with the four midfielders they had up front. It's so difficult to play against them but I think we played really well in the part of the game because we had a lot of communication. When you have that, I think you can resolve any problem you're going to have. In that case, the back four and the two midfielders played really well in the defensive part with those four players, but at the end everybody on the pitch gave everything. I'm really proud of the team because of the way we played. We have to continue, we have a big game on Thursday and we have to be focused on that.
For you as well, getting back to full fitness and 90 minutes under your belt going into such an important week. How does that feel, to be back involved again and putting your name in contention?
I'm really happy. I've always said that I'm really proud to be here and happy. Whenever I play I try to give everything to my team to help my team-mates, to help them and push hard, to help the coach to win games, to help the club. I give everything for the club so at the end, I'm really happy when I play. Of course I'm really disappointed when I don't win because I want to win every week, but I'm happy to come back again.
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