As a teenager Keown had been lauded as a neat and constructive player seen, in the long-term, as a partner for David O’Leary. The emergence of one Tony Adams put paid to that, but with a newly-acquired versatility picked up elsewhere, he became a vital cog in the Graham machine.
Martin was deployed most frequently at centre-half where his formidable pace and thunderous tackling combined to thwart both target men and strikers running in behind. It meant, too, that he was vastly capable in an anchoring midfield role; something utilised by his manager.
When Arsène Wenger took the reins in 1996 Keown continued to strive for improvement and, despite his increasing years, he remained as redoubtable as ever. The footballing intellect he had demonstrated in the nascent stages of his career returned while, crucially, his bite and combative nature was unfailing.
Major honours had so far eluded Keown – he was cup-tied for the 1993 FA Cup and League Cup success, while injury robbed him of a Cup Winners’ Cup medal a year later – but in 1998 when Wenger’s men swept away all before them the defender played a pivotal role alongside Adams.
But Keown was now the wrong side of 35. Testament to his character, though, he fought back from wear-and-tear injuries to win another ‘double’ in 2002.
Eventually he relinquished his position to a young Kolo Toure, making his final appearance in May 2004 as Arsenal completed their ‘Invincibles’ season, Keown’s third League title.
That – plus the packed house for his Highbury testimonial – was the perfect send-off for one of the club’s greatest defenders.
#arsenal #keown #arsenallegends
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