When Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996, he was very fortunate to inherit a defensive line full of England internationals that had provided a rock for the Gunners at the back.
Amongst those players was Martin Keown, who arrived at Arsenal for a second spell in 1993 from Everton and stayed at the club for 11 seasons – and was a regular in the transitional years after Wenger’s arrival at the club.
A graduate of Arsenal’s youth academy, Keown made 22 league appearances before leaving in 1986 to spend three seasons with Aston Villa, then spending four years at Goodison Park before returning to Highbury seven years after he first left.
His first few years back at Arsenal saw Keown as a regular but things started to change under Wenger as, after a decade of waiting, Keown secured the first honours of his career as the Gunners won the Premier League and FA Cup – but was selected just 18 times in the league.
Four years later, Arsenal did the double again and Keown, now in the latter stages of his career, played a regular role in the team and achieved further success in his final season with the club in 2003/04, where the Gunners won the Premier League title without losing a single match.
As part of unbeaten run, which spanned into a total of 49 games, Keown’s passion was shown in an infamous game against Manchester United when he conceded a late penalty for a foul on Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who smashed his effort against the bar and the England international then screamed in the face of the Dutchman.
That passion and commitment is one of the reasons why Keown is remembered fondly at Arsenal, as well as the fact that he is another successful product of an academy that has also developed the likes of Tony Adams and Ashley Cole.
Winning three FA Cups and three Premier League titles during his spell at Arsenal, Keown was a key-part of the defence during the Gunners’ years of dominance within English football and fans have wanted a passionate defender like him to emerge ever since.
Keown had many defensive partners during his time at the club, which included fellow Arsenal legends Adams, Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure – and the fact that all are remembered so fondly is a testament to the fantastic options that Arsenal had at their disposal during this period.
In the years since leaving Arsenal, Keown is now a regular pundit and commentator, showing his passion for the Gunners in his coverage and remaining closely tied to the north London side.
While Keown played for a number of clubs in his career, unlike a number of other Arsenal legends, it’s within north London where he is remembered most and enjoyed the best successes of his two-decades playing football.
With 332 league caps for Arsenal and 43 appearances for England, Keown may not be the first name you think of when asked your recall your favourite defensive icon from the Gunners but he should certainly be right up there in contention.
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