Keown singles out Arsenal star for his 'hunger' in draw with Sporting

Martin Keown hails ‘brilliant’ William Saliba, claiming the Arsenal star is ‘growing in stature’ and developing into a ‘proper central defender’ following his goal against Sporting

  • Arsenal secured a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their European tie with Sporting
  • William Saliba opened the scoring for the Gunners and impressed in the game
  • Martin Keown has hailed Saliba’s development this season under Mikel Arteta 

Martin Keown has heaped praise on William Saliba after his goal in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Sporting in the Europa League on Thursday.

Mikel Arteta made a number of changes from the side that beat Bournemouth in dramatic fashion last Saturday, but Saliba remained in the starting line-up and gave the Gunners the lead with a fine header in the 22nd minute.

Arsenal were unable to hang on for a win in Lisbon, but Keown was still impressed by Saliba, and believes he is going from strength to strength since returning from multiple loan spells in France.

‘Just a word on Saliba, a player that Arsenal bought three years ago, and went out on loan for three seasons, you’d be thinking “am I really going to be an Arsenal player?” Keown told BT Sport.

‘This is his first season as an Arsenal player and in the first game of the season against Crystal Palace he was man of the match and he’s been brilliant ever since. 

Arsenal’s William Saliba got on the scoresheet with a well-placed header in the first half 

Martin Keown has praised Saliba for coming into the Arsenal side and making a major impact

‘I think he’s growing in stature, just listening to him speak and the goal he scored tonight, his performance – he’s a proper central defender. He and Gabriel make for a really good partnership, I think he’s ahead of Gabriel. 

‘He’s doing everything you want, there’s a hunger, taking responsibility as he wants to get into the next round. He’s given everything for the cause.

‘He’s very composed, strong. Again he’s got the ingredient, of pace. Look at the goal, I guess Tony Adams was noted for scoring at set-pieces and he’s got in on the act again – it’s a nice habit if your head is the first to the ball in either box. It’s a really nice header, keeps it down.’

Arsenal are likely to enter next week’s return leg as favourites to progress to the quarter-finals of the Europa League in front of their home fans at the Emirates Stadium after securing a draw in the Portuguese capital.

Keown feels Arteta’s men will have wanted to give themselves some breathing space in the tie by winning the first leg, but admitted they could have no complaints with the result.

‘I think they would have wanted to win the game,’ Keown said. ‘But in the end I think a draw was a fair result.’

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