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.”