• Sportsmail columnist Martin Keown returns to answer YOUR questions 
  • Louis van Gaal is under mounting pressure at Manchester United
  • United have not won a single game in eight matches in all competitions
  • Arsenal go into the new year top of the table ahead of Leicester City
  • Gunners are being tipped to win their first title since the 2003-04 season
  • Follow below to find out all of Martin’s answers to your questions

Martin Keown for the Daily Mail

Former Arsenal and England defender-turned Sportsmail columnist Martin Keown returns to answer YOUR questions on the big talking points in football.

Louis van Gaal’s position at Manchester United and Arsenal’s title credentials are at the top of the footballing agenda this week as we head into 2016.

There is mounting pressure on Dutchman Van Gaal with United currently on an eight-game winless run in all competitions dating back to the 2-1 win at Watford in November.

Arsenal are top of the Premier League table as we head into the new year and are being tipped to win their first title since the 2003-04 season.

Find out if Keown thinks United should stick or twist with Van Gaal and if Arsenal really can win the title plus much, much more.

See below to check out Martin’s answers to all of your questions.

  • Martin Keown

    Host commentator

I keep saying – and no one seems to be listening – that Gabriel is a fantastic player. I have no doubt he will be first choice along side Koscielny at some point.

He made a couple of unbelievable challenges against Bournemouth, as well scoring an important goal – all this after being sat on the bench for so long. For me, that’s highly impressive.

What he needs to do is bring the same sense of calmness and confidence as Mertesacker does. Wenger really likes this, but Gabriel is definitely putting pressure on the German – and you only get the love from Wenger for so long.

I think moving Chambers to central midfield is a smart move by Wenger, and also a good use of the player. I played in midfield myself for a while, and in order to take the role seriously you need a stretch of games there.

I had never expected to play centre midfield for Arsenal, that’s for sure. But having a defender in that role brings a lot to the midfield. They usually have more pace than natural central midfielders, so I could speed past the likes of Jamie Redknapp!

Gabriel celebrates after scoring against Bournemouth on Monday

I think Mertesacker is becoming one of the main leaders at the club, particularly in the absence of Arteta – whose body has started letting him down.

He’s a leader on the pitch, and though he’s not the most mobile, he does very well with what he has. I’d like to see him become more of a threat from set-pieces, though, and sometimes he can switch off during matches.

Per Mertesacker is one of Arsenal’s main leaders

He was all hugs and smiles when he first arrives, but not any more. He has every right to defend his players, and he develops such a bond with them that he would have felt the hurt of Lens’ challenge on Sakho.

Though, maybe he’d be better off complaining to the fourth official – I think the way he went straight for the Sunderland camp is what riled them up. That’s not really Big Sam’s style.

You can get away with that against some managers – Alan Pardew is always up for cranking it up a notch. Though Wenger probably would have said he hadn’t seen it – he seemed to spend more time apologising for tackles we had made!

I always found having a strong, verbal manager to be distracting, especially when you’re in possession. When Stewart Houston was working alongside George Graham, he developed this habit of whistling at us. It made me feel like a sheepdog, so I would complain to the referee that someone was whistling from the sidelines and it was putting me off – then I would avoid falling out with him.

When I was about 20, I made the conscious decision to ignore shouts from the touchline. I thought, ‘you can brief me, but when I cross that white line I decide. You have to trust me when I’m on the pitch’.

Jurgen Klopp was incensed by the challenge on his defender

I don’t think so, no. They have so much to contend with and then get criticised if they don’t do their best to keep all 22 men on the pitch.

Everything happens at breakneck speed and you can’t always been in exactly the right place at the right time – sometimes you have to rely on the linesman. And then there’s the reaction of the players and the crowd…

I think it would have been tough for Kevin Friend to see Lens’ challenge properly, which is probably why he didn’t send him off. I think this is the right way to referee – don’t make the decision if you’re not sure.

Players often know if you’ve taken a gamble – players will often say, ‘I couldn’t see that and I’m standing next to you, ref… how could you have seen it?’ You can see it in a ref’s eyes if he’s unsure about a decision.

Referee Kevin Friend only showed Lens a yellow card for the wild challenge on Sakho

I think tackles that involve this pincer movement are the most distasteful and dangerous in the game, so it has to be up there. The double movement – using one leg to slow the opponent and the other to stop him – is designed to cause maximum damage.

I think McCarthy’s on Payet was worse, though. The fact he was running after him at full speed meant there was more force in the challenge.

I think Cazorla is actually trying to pull out of the tackle on Fabregas. The Chelsea man knows Cazorla is wrong to go in with his foot high, so he takes the opportunity to make a big deal out of it.

You shouldn’t give your opponent the chance to make the most out of a tackle, and this often happens if you’ve had to run 40 yards to get to the ball. People say I was a good man-to-man marker, and this is because I would do my best to win the ball early.

When I first saw the Adrian challenge on Vardy, I thought he was unlucky to be sent off as he had his eyes fixed on the ball. But, looking back, the keeper knows how far outside his area he is and he has to make contact with Vardy to stop him scoring. He’s overshot the runway and he knows he’s going to hit something. This cynicism, along with the brutality of the challenge, makes it a definite red card.

Lens’ tackle on Sakho is up there with the worst challenges of the season so far

I think he definitely should have been sent off, and he’s lucky he hasn’t done significant damage to himself, let alone Sakho.

He has no way of winning the ball, and you can see how shocked Sakho is by it. He’s fully entitled to try to jump out of it, and I think he presses the eject button a bit too late.

I don’t understand why he did it, to be honest. Sakho is a man mountain and he was fixed in one place, so it would have been like trying to tackle a gatepost!

Lens’ upended Sakho towards the end of Liverpool’s 1-0 win against Sunderland on Wednesday

And welcome along to the latest edition of Tackle Keown. Let’s get stuck in!



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