Arsenal defensive legend speaks out on Gabriel v BFG debate

Martin Keown is one of the best defenders that Arsenal and England have ever had and although he only made 10 Premier League appearances in his final season as a Gunner, that was enough to earn him a winners medal in our invincible season.

But Keown was an integral part of the first team for most of his Arsenal career, including the double winning sides of 1998 and 2002. He also works with the club still on part time basis as a scout and a coach so he is the ideal man to give an educated opinion on the current debate among Arsenal fans about Per Mertesacker and Gabriel and which of them should partner Laurent Koscielny in our strongest possible back four.

The 49-year old was asked about it in his weekly question and answer column for the Daily Mail and he had some really good things to say about the World Cup winning German, especially his qualities as a leader.

Keown said, “I think Mertesacker is becoming one of the main leaders at the club, particularly in the absence of Arteta – whose body has started letting him down.

“He’s a leader on the pitch, and though he’s not the most mobile, he does very well with what he has. I’d like to see him become more of a threat from set-pieces, though, and sometimes he can switch off during matches.”

Having said that, he also suggested that the German´s position in the first team was under serious threat from his Brazilian team mate. In fact it sounds to me as if Keown expects Gabriel to be playing alongside Koscielny a lot more in the future and the very near future at that.

He continued, “I keep saying – and no one seems to be listening – that Gabriel is a fantastic player. I have no doubt he will be first choice along side Koscielny at some point.

“He made a couple of unbelievable challenges against Bournemouth, as well scoring an important goal – all this after being sat on the bench for so long. For me, that’s highly impressive.

“What he needs to do is bring the same sense of calmness and confidence as Mertesacker does. Wenger really likes this, but Gabriel is definitely putting pressure on the German – and you only get the love from Wenger for so long.”

So is Mertesacker’s time as first choice defender coming to an end?

Tags Keown Mertesacker Wenger


  1. I honestly expected Gabriel to have replaced Mertesacker by now. After watching Gabriel vs. Bournemouth, I feel it’s only a matter of time before he does. I still like Mertesacker, but feel that Gabriel is a more reliable defender. Many of the myopic pundits seem to have forgotten that Gabriel exists. The only error I have seen Gabriel make is the one against Norwich where he should have got tighter to his man before the goal was scored. He has been remarkably consistent otherwise, despite a lack of Premier League experience and linguistic limitations. He’s a superb centre-back who I fully expect to become one of the best in the division.

  2. For me i think Per days are numbered as first choice,he might be getting 10 minutes play someday soon


  3. “So is Mertesacker’s time as first choice defender coming to an end?”

    Of course. If not this season, then next season surely.

  4. Per should be on the bench.

    He is too slow

    He is useless from set pieces.

    He can’t pass the ball from the back

    All the positive qualities per has, gab has it much more.

    We can bring per when we are defending a narrow lead

    Yes. its time for a new partnership

    a more effective partnership

    A damn partnership that works.

    ladies and gentlemen, a new formidable partnership is here.

    it is



    1. Yes i fully understand you but whatever Per can do Petr Cech can as well organize his back,for me i will vote for GabyCielny.


  5. Eventually Gabriel will succeed Mertesacker but for now my first choice is the Mertesacker and Koscienly partnership. This partnership has been our best for a while and its against industry practice to break it up just yet. Gabriel just doesn’t inspire calmness, confidence and the intelligence (especially emotional intelligence) that Mertesacker has with me. I’m sure eventually he will. Despite his great qualities like speed, strength and aggression his inexperience has shown itself in crucial games, remember the Chelsea game, he put himself in a position to get a red card by falling for Costa’s Antics (Arsenal would have won that game if we remained 11 or if Mertesacker was playing especially considering we were playing deep), he played Lewandowski on-side for Bayern’s first goal in the champions league, the shaky first half in the home game against Liverpool.
    Gabriel reminds me of Koscienly in his earlier Arsenal days, fast, strong, aggressive and rash in the challenge. Remember all the needless yellow cards, red cards and Penalties. I believe he has benefited positively from his Partnership with Mertesacker, he is calmer, confident and more intelligent now. So another reason why I’m comfortable with the current first choice partnership. This debates also reminds me of when we had Vermaelen. He was also similar to Gabriel, he was paired with Koscienly a few times and it didn’t work. What worked was the Per and Koscienly partnership which for the moment is still better or comparable to our rivals. Mertesacker is what he is, big, tall, slow but for now he is my first choice over Gabriel.

  6. For me BFG cost us a lot and sorry he is not a leader. When you are down you need to look up to your captain? We don’t have one. So for me Gabriel to star with LK and bench BFG and I would make Ozill club captain end of. AW has this thing where he won’t change things and not having a captain for near 3 years is madness. MA won’t play much just like lasts season so what’s the point. And as for all this talk of MF going in the summer is mad he is a great bench player and man to man marker. This should be sorted now and give him another year. O and go get CF back from Chelsea. Great player but again AW won’t do good business

  7. Gabriel has got start being first pick over bfg fast decisive, so much more confident when he is playing.
    But got to admit can’t think of many if any times this season when bfg lack of pace has lead to a goal.

    Ps we don’t want this version of CF back from Chelsea definitely not the player he use to be.

  8. We all know how important Mert has been and how much Wenger relies on him.

    I also believe Wenger brought in Gabriel with the intent of making him a starter.

    Thus the only question is………… Is Gabriel integrated into the lineup rather quickly or much more slowly as Wenger seems to be doing?

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