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Martin Keown: Why Ramsey is key to balance in defence and attack


Former defender Martin Keown says Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin can be an important pair in the Arsenal midfield.

Always considered an attacking-minded squad, the Gunners produced a brilliant defensive display away at Manchester City two weeks ago and the 48-year-old says the pair can provide additional security to Arsenal's defensive department.

"[Santi] Cazorla has the ability to stitch himself into the play going forward when Arsenal attack and he is working hard defensively too, as we saw in Arsenal's impressive win over Manchester City," Keown told the BBC Sport.

"But [Aaron] Ramsey is the player who [Arsene] Wenger primarily wants to see coming back to form a two-man shield in front of their defence.

"Against City and Villa, the Wales international was far more team-aware of where he needed to be to fill any holes.

"For me, that is a big reason why Arsenal are conceding possession at the moment - they had less of the ball than Villa did on Sunday, despite winning 5-0, and against City their possession rate of 35% was their lowest since Opta's records began in 2003.

"Arsenal are quite happy for the other team to have the ball because, with Ramsey and [Francis] Coquelin both back, they know the opposition cannot hurt them.

"Ramsey can still gamble and go forward when Arsenal have good possession, but he is picking his moments far more carefully than before, and he does not join attacks as much as he did.

"It was great to see that he had the same discipline against Villa as he did against City and, in both games, knowing when to go and when to sit gave Arsenal the right balance in defence and attack.

"When they lost to Swansea in November, my MOTD2 analysis was all about how the Gunners got that balance wrong and sent too many players charging forward.

"That is not the case now, and they are not conceding goals either. Nobody is talking about them having a soft centre any more."

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Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Martin Keown