Friday, March 1, 2024

Keown: Arsenal defence ‘as good as any in the Premier League’

If there is one thing Martin Keown knows about, it’s defending. So when the legendary Arsenal and England centre-back claims that the current first choice back four at the Emirates are as good as anything in the Premier League you sit up and take notice.

Speaking to Chinese television on a promotional tour ahead of Arsenal’s pre-season friendly matches in Hong Kong and Beijing, the player-turned-pundit made clear that only injuries have prevented the Gunners from being more solid at the back this term, before paying special homage to the quality of Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny.

“I think it has been a problem keeping people fit; we’ve not really had everybody available,” Keown told a local broadcaster when asked about Arsenal’s propensity to leak goals.

“If you look at left-back, Santos has come to the club and got injured straight away. Young Kieran Gibbs has been injured also at left-back – it’s nice to see him return. Sagna broke his ankle as well.

“I think the manager has had real difficulty in those areas. I certainly like Vermaelen and Koscielny, I think those two have massive futures at the club.

“Koscielny is so nimble in his movement and the way he can transfer his weight. We saw that last year against Barcelona when he played against Messi – that was a good sign for the future.

“Vermaelen we know about – he’s real leader type, a no-nonsense defender. I think we have the makings of an outstanding defence.”

Stopping short of specifically naming Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou, Keown did make clear that individual mistakes made by squad players are proving costly and that Arsene Wenger needs to have reserves upon whom he can rely.

“We just need those guys fit. What we need also is a little bit more from the people who come in [as back-up]; they need to iron out mistakes.

“You can’t be fit every week, so you’re only really as strong as your squad. If you’re going to win something that is perhaps an area that needs to be looked at. If you put our best back four out there I think it’s as good as any in the Premier League.”

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Another thing that Martin Keown knows about:

How to wind up an Italian ponce enough to get him to deliberately smack you in the face and get sent off. An all-time classic piece of work if ever there was.


I agree with this completely. Have always felt our defensive problems were not down to a lack of quality.


Keown knows….


The current 4 are superb and the quality rotation we have of song covering when the fullbacks push on is so underrated. No one seems to mention how much the fullbacks were missed in our attacking game and having these two at centre back allows them to be that effective going forward. On one hand it was a blessing Per getting injured as I dont know if Wenger would have ran with these 2 as first choice, on the other hand if one of them gets injured its the frightening prospect of Djourou or Squillachi in for them. I think… Read more »


What about Kyle Bartley ? Looks a decent prospect, although I haven’t seen much of him at Rangers.


I really like the look of Miguel. He’s had a baptism of fire this year, but he looks like a strong candidate…

Dick Swiveller

That guy’s Miquel. I’m happy enough with Djourou as 4th choice and Miquel waiting in the wings, after all when you compare them to Luiz/Evans/Savic they’re good enough as back up.

Adam Watford

It’s good we have the BFG as a back-up or hopefully a good option for rotation. I’d hate to see him get fed up and want to leave. Like Kos, I imagine his second season will be phenomenal if he can stay uninjured. I can’t imagine that we wont need to call on Mert one way or another. That said, I agree with Keown ( and why wouldn’t I ? ), our back four is as good as anything the Premiership has to offer, when it is at full strength. Now, if it gets a proper run of games together,… Read more »

Silvinho's passport

Not saying the BFG won’t get stroppy, but given our injury history…

1. He’ll be out for most of next year anyway, or
2. He’ll be the only healthy center back and desperate for a breather, or
3. He’ll get no fucking sympathy from the following who have all missed at least one full season already at Arsenal — Wilshere, Diaby, Rosicky, Vermaelen, RvP, Gibbs, probably Walcott if you add it all up.


The arsenal medics are not treating him, the german national team is because he is there priority for the euro.


Agree 100percent. Despite all reasons been adduced (sameness of style, etc) as the Weakness of the Kos/Verm combination, I tink they are by far our best pairing. And between Sagna/Coq and Gibbs/Santos, I think the full backs are as good as any (dont think Jenkinson is ready yet). But I dont think we’ll get the best of these lot untill we can find a way of balancing our attaching forays with our defensive responsibilities. And more importantly letting Song sit deep and do what he does best – which is shielding the back 4.


Actually, while i think Song is our best defensive midfielder, I do not think that that is what he does best. As a matter of fact i think he is more creative in the final third than most of our other midfielders. i think his natural instinct is to go forward and not to shield the back 4. Just my humble opinion!


Keown is class. Agree 100%. Vermkos setup is top notch, in games against teams with strength and height, we have per to rotate. Considering how the leave has teams with a mix of both, it’s nice to be able to rotate the CBs, same goes for the LB/RB as jenkinson and Gibbs are great back ups to Sagna and Santos.

Reckon we’re in for a good season next year, hope we keep RvP, personally think he will stay, and hopefully the additions of Podolski and Gotze/Hazard will add to our force – not to mention Wilshere returning LANS


I also think – as Vermaelen has mentioned before – we play a style of football that allows teams to counter our high line – even Barcelona concede a goal per game – I think Koscielny is an outstanding defender – as good as Vermaelen. The problem, though, is that Arsenal can’t afford to keep too much quality on the bench without players deciding they’ll go somewhere else, unlike City or Chelsea who pay so much that players wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. For example, I’m all for the current flavour for Vertonghen – but would he play if… Read more »


He’s wrong. Probably the biggest weakness that this team has is poor defending, especially away from home. If you don’t believe me then just take look at the Premier League table: we have one of the worst away defensive records of any side in the division. The left-back position is probably the biggest problem that we have: neither Gibbs or Santos are, for me, good enough. I would love to see Baines in that position. We are in a top-four position because we have a very nice habit of always being able to score, even when we play bad; but,… Read more »

Cygan's Right Foot

Hmmm should i listen to Martin Keown – a defender who made over 300 appearances for Arsenal (in arguably our greatest back 5) and 43 appearances for England, so knows quite a bit about defending or Fatgooner – who has little to no defending experience at the top level (i mean, you never know. You could have been a youth player and were let go, hence the bitterness), complains about every aspect of the club (maybe due to too much time playing fantasy football games) and won’t have access to the club, except for paying for the tour….. You really… Read more »


You’re wrong Fat gooner.

Since our distasterous start when we conceded 12 goals in our first 3 away games we have conceded 15, which compares really well with the top teams.

If you look at where we are today, then we are one of the best defences in the league. We’re also the form team.

So shut up.


Dick Swiveller

You’re right, in that the weakness of the team has been their defending but you seemed to miss the implications of that; it’s the TEAM’S responsibility to defend as much as it is the defence. When our full-backs are receiving little support from the wing and our midfield is unable to keep the ball or indeed provide any kind of a shield it leaves our defenders in the lurch, you can have Maldini and Baresi back there but if there’s 3 guys who’ve isolated them after nicking the ball in midfield they can’t do shit to stop a goal.


You think you know better than Keown? Lol knock yourself out then. Be our guest.


Fatgooner = myles p something.
Wait till he tells you about how RVP is crap and how some ‘gladiator’ named welbeck is better than messi. Oh wait, rooney and co lost home/away to bilbao so he won’t say a word….. until Arsenal’s winning streak comes to an end. Then he’ll go to town


Normally I agree with you but in this instance I think you’re being slightly bias so that your argument carries better. Either that or you have tunnel vision. Our defensive record has been poor yes but I’d say apart from the odd time – when we’ve had proper full backs – the majority of the mistakes have come from midfield. To be more specific, Song not covering. People tend to miss his defensive frailties because of his subliminal passing and as we stress so often on here defensive duties start from the front. To address the points raised by others… Read more »


@Fatgooner. If you emove the 8 conceded at OT and 4 conceded at Blackburn are we still worse-off down the others? I thought those goals were down to injuries and the manager believing he can do fuck all in the summer ad get away with it.

Cygan's Right Foot

Arsenal have conceded 39
Chelsea have conceded 32
Tottenham have conceded 34
Newcastle have conceded 41

Take out the 12 you listed and it’s only 27 conceded for us, which is the same as 1st placed Utd.


But you can’t – because we did concede them.

Cygan's Right Foot

The top 4 right now: Man Utd – Scored 68, conceded 27 Man City – Scored 69, conceded 20 Tottenham – Scored 52, conceded 34 Arsenal – Scored 57, conceded 39 This shows that we are in about the right position right now, considering the constant chainging we have needed due to injuries. Only now are our back four having a run of games together. On average we have conceded 1.3 goals a game but have scored 2 goals a game. That shows it’s all based on when you concede them rather than how many. If it was based on… Read more »

the only sam is nelson

blackburn was just fucking weird and the game that never happened, never happened. if it did, the midfield certainly didn’t turn up or protect the back line.

and the one thing you do know more about than martin keown is jumping up and down insanely, making gibbon faces

no, wait, martin knows more about that than you as well, i just took a phone call from ruud the horse who reminded me


@Thorough: Why would you even suggest to remove goals that we conceded, that’s so unrealistic. Should we also remove the 5 goals we scored in those games as well? I actually agree (in parts) with Fatgooner, although i would have put it differently. But, what did M.Keown have to say when we were losing games -” The lack of awareness of where the defensive line needs to be is a surprise because when Wenger first came to the club we spent an awful lot of time working on defensive shape” Read more: And he was right then, a great… Read more »


Fatgooner u obviously know more then keown.
prey tell us of your vast experience in playing and managing in the game.
dont u just love armchair pundits know it all when they have achieved fuk all in the game.


I don’t need to know anything about the game to be able to read a league table. Six losses out of 14 games, and 27 goals conceded tells me everything that I need to know.

I suppose that if Martin Keown said that we were the best team in the league then you would believe him, even though we are 15 points behind Man United.


What are you taling about FatGooner? 6 losses from 14 games when? You say you can see this from the league table, but we’ve not had a run like that in the league. Also, if you criticise people for manipulating stats, why do it yourself? Look at the season as a whole, not choosing 14 games that back up your claims. 8 losses from 28 games in the league. There’s only Chelsea, United, City and Spus that are beating that at the moment, and I think one or two of those teams will make that record worse over the coming… Read more »


Keown favors TV5 and Adams favors Per. Who will be the winner?


Why does no one favor Koscielny? I can’t be the only one who ha noticed that he’s less error-prone than even TV5!


I think incredibly it’s because Kos has turned into a nailed on goes-without-saying inclusion.

Red Cannon

Kos is my favorite player on this current squad– even more than RvP or Sagna. I just love Kos’ kick-ass attitude!


If Gibbs can put his injury problems behind him and Miquel and Jenkinson live up to there talent we could keep the same defense for a long long time.
Add to that the fact that we have incredibly talented midfielders at the age of 18 (the Ox), 19 (ryo), 20 (Wilshere, Coquelin) and you get really concerned about mancity’s ability to buy the title for the next couple of years 🙂


*their talent


why are we still slating Wenger? He is the one who brings them….he is to stay for longer time…

gooner sami

I think Koscielny and Vermaelen are up there with the best defenders in the world but their partnership is not really a strong one. Vermaelen especially has looked the weaker of the two since he got back from injury.

Cygan's Right Foot

It takes time to build a partnership. I’m sure it took Adams and Keown a few games to learn how the other played but we don’t have the luxury of time right now. Our games are do-or-die which puts pressure on the defence and they have to just do what they can.

A pre-season and injury-free run of games should see the partnership improve significantly

gooner sami

The future is definitely bright with those two in there. Wenger should now move in for Podolski and maybe M’villa #dreamteam


Not trying to undermine anyone but Vermalen’s had a so-so season for two reasons (Again, happy to be proved wrong)
1) He’s been played at Left Back all season and didn’t play at all last season. It means his positional sense is still coming back. It takes time to get into rhythm.
2) He’s trying to adjust his game to the midfield in front of him and the left back next to him. It is one of the finer things we miss out. Being a team game and everything.


Adams was wrong on TV5 in the first place. When we signed him, TA thought it was a big mistake because he was not an 8’9″ tall beast. I think Martin looks at the all round skill while Adams fancies the traditional big lump.


I’d like to see us offload Squid and Eastmond; move Djourou to DM as cover for Song and Coquelin; bring in Miquel as a utliity defender to cover CBs and fullbacks; and bring back Bartley to be 4th choice CB. Then we’ve also got Yennaris as additional cover for RB. If we are looking to bring in anyone else, then we’ve got to be offloading a couple of additional bodies first, probably starting with Djourou.


The same Djourou who was our best CB for long periods last season is the same guy people want out because he has been poor as cover AT RIGHT BACK. And who should be our fourth choice CB? heh, i heard you say franco baresi.
As for kyle bartkey, yes we are in that phase where we are winning and everyone is all for giving the young guys a chance and when we lose we all turn on them and their inexperience even when they are not on the pitch.


I would love it if Baresi was our fourth choice CB. I would actually be praying for CB injuries then. Can you imagine that?

I’m assuming that you mean Baresi in his prime and not the current 50 year old 😛


I agree.

[…] the importance of Robin van Persie and how he believes that Arsenal’s first choice back four is as good as any other in the Premier League. The issue he sees with the defending is that the players a little further away from being first […]

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