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Arsenal title-winner hails Saliba and Gabriel after Manchester United shut-out

Martin Keown knows what it takes to be a Premier League champion and he thinks Mikel Arteta's men have all the required attributes


Former Arsenal centre-half Martin Keown was impressed with the Gunners’ defensive organisation at Manchester United yesterday and believes Mikel Arteta’s men ticked off a “checklist of what it takes to be champions”.

Leandro Trossard’s first-half goal at Old Trafford handed the visitors a vital win that moves them a point above Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.

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City have two matches to play and Arsenal one so the momentum remains with Pep Guardiola’s side, who play their game in hand at Tottenham tomorrow night.

Arsenal remain in the race, however, after a strong defensive display against United.

Keown told BBC Sport: “When I read back the notes I’d made about Arsenal during Sunday’s win over Manchester United, it was like a checklist of what it takes to be champions.

“Mikel Arteta’s side had the mindset that meant they were able to handle the occasion, take control of the game and then see it out with the kind of defensive discipline and determination that has enabled them to keep 18 clean sheets in the Premier League this season.”

Who in particular stood out for Arsenal?

The likes of Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard have stolen the headlines this season but Arsenal’s success has been built on the central defensive partnership of Gabriel and William Saliba.

Both men were superb again against United.

Keown added: “I thought they were immense at the back, especially the two centre-halves, Gabriel and William Saliba, who were outstanding.

“Arsenal’s defensive improvement this season has helped them go the distance in the title race, and it was the platform for their win over United too.

“There were times during the game where all 10 of their outfield players were behind the ball around the edge of their own area. Everyone was in position, they were dogged and resolute and it was like they put up a shield and were saying to United ‘can you get past us?’

“United couldn’t get through which meant that, even when they were seeing a lot of the ball, they ended up getting frustrated and shooting from distance when they probably should have tried to play an extra pass.

“Arsenal have gone on the attack in most of their games this season but we have also seen them play this way before – it was the same when they drew with Manchester City at the end of March. Their whole team had the same mindset, or shared defensive brain, against United and at the heart of it were Gabriel and Saliba.”

Picture of Jon Fisher

Jon Fisher

Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.

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