Martin Keown exclusive: Arsenal bounceback deserves ‘respect’ with ‘consistency’ now key to Europe bid

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Martin Keown exclusive: Arsenal bounceback deserves ‘respect’ with ‘consistency’ now key to Europe bid
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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta deserves praise for overseeing a rapid turnaround after the club’s poor start to the season, says Martin Keown.

A 5-0 defeat to Manchester City in August meant the Gunners opened the Premier League campaign with three consecutive defeats.

But going nine unbeaten since means the team deserves “respect” with consistency now the name of the game, according to the ex-defender.

Keown told Standard Sport while promoting the FA’s and McDonald’s Fun Football Hub: “Arsenal fans need to be able to see a team that is competitive, that can play winning football and strikes the balance as a team that is developing.

“They are just three points off Man City, who thumped them 5-0, and we have to respect the turnaround.

“But Arsenal have difficult away games coming up, against Liverpool and Manchester United, and I think we will know a little bit more about what the clear targets are after that.

“They’ve put themselves in a position to strike for Europe, but where they end up will be down to their consistency.”

Keown likened rising star Emile Smith Rowe to Highbury hero Ray Parlour for his all-action approach to the game.

While the 21-year-old midfielder has received plenty of plaudits for his threat in attack, it is his work off the ball that has particularly impressed Keown.

He said: “Ray was a player that probably never got the credit he deserved.

“Ray didn’t stay out wide out all the time, he would tuck in, deep into midfield. I’ve seen Smith Rowe do that quite a few times.

 (McDonald’s Fun Football)
(McDonald’s Fun Football)

“It makes the team more complete, when you have the players that are looking to play with the ball and without.”

Parlour won three league titles in 13 years at Arsenal and Keown believes Smith Rowe emulating the man dubbed the ‘Romford Pele’ means he perfectly fits the modern game.

“In this day and age, you can’t carry anybody,” he added. “You want players that are all action, who can compete all over the pitch.

“Arsenal are very much rebuilding a reputation - this is a new group, a new beginning.

“When they were blown away at the start of the season, teams were enjoying playing Arsenal. But the Leicester game was a real statement victory.”

Martin Keown is an ambassador for McDonald’s Fun Football programme. Go to mcdonalds.co.uk/football for fun video challenges you can recreate at home to keep your kids active.

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