ARSENAL legend Martin Keown has had his say on the state of the Gunners’ defence…and he is not convinced by all those at the Emirates.
Former centre-back Keown expressed concern over a few of the North London club’s defensive stars including David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi.
The pair have both copped plenty of flak from fans and pundits alike and their futures look to be up in the air ahead of a busy summer transfer window for boss Mikel Arteta.
Keown notched an impressive 108 league clean sheets during his time at Highbury and is well-placed to judge the current crop of defenders.
He cast his eye over Luiz, Mustafi and Arsenal defender William Saliba – who is on loan at Saint-Etienne – ahead of the Premier League’s June 17 restart.
Luiz joined Arsenal from Chelsea last summer but only signed a one-year deal so may become a free agent if Arteta does not offer him an extension.
The Brazilian has started all except three of the Gunners’ Premier League games this season but has failed to dispel doubters with his performances.
Keown told talkSPORT: “David Luiz concerns me because if you’re going to pay £8million for him and give him £5m wages and he’s only going to be there for one season, I’m not sure about the wisdom of that.
“Is he a proper defender? Can he play in a back four? His best defending came when he was in a back three at Chelsea when they won the Premier League [in 2016-17].
“It’s the most crucial area which he [Arteta] has to get right.
“Holding‘s been injured, it’s hard to judge him, he probably deserves another opportunity. I think that Sokratis could be a useful defender but I can understand the uncertainty of giving David Luiz a new deal.
“Do they now start to be harsh and make those key decisions? If David Luiz isn’t the answer, then he has to go now.”
Luiz – who earns around £110,000 a week – is reportedly drawing closer to a return to old club Benfica after opening talks with the club president.
Keown added: “He [Luiz] doesn’t enjoy being in wide positions in the back four, he tends to bring people down and Mustafi, although Arteta has got a bit of a tune out of him, we know Mustafi isn’t quite at the level as well.
“You go to a football club, you have to make your mark and if it doesn’t happen you have to hold your hands up. I think both players will have to do that… I can’t see that being a long-term partnership in the Arsenal defence.”
German international Mustafi has had a rollercoaster ride since joining Arsenal from Valencia for £34.85m in 2016.
A number of high-profile gaffes saw him become public enemy no1 for Gunners supporters who often called for him to be moved on.
However, Spanish boss Arteta has worked his magic and after placing his faith in Mustafi he has been rewarded with some much more solid performances, but not everyone is convinced.
Keown explained: “There’s an awful lot of work to be done in there. There was the defender from Saint-Etienne, William Saliba, who they paid £27m for but was loaned back again.
“I couldn’t quite work that out because now I’m being told he’s world-class. Never mind if he’s world-class, if he was Premier League class it would have been good enough because that was an area of concern.”
Saliba made 17 appearances in an injury-hit Ligue 1 campaign that was ended prematurely by coronavirus.
The 19-year-old has plenty of promise and will be able to train with the Gunners from next month but is ineligible until next season when he could slot straight in.
Saliba has been backed to succeed in North London by former Leicester boss Claude Puel who took over at Saint-Etienne in November.