• Martin Keown answers YOUR questions in this week’s Tackle Keown
  • Premier League returns this weekend after the international break
  • England have just beaten Germany 3-2 and lost 2-1 to Holland  

Martin Keown for the Daily Mail

Sportsmail columnist Martin Keown returns to answer more of your questions as Premier League teams gear up for the final matches of the season.

The destination of the league title, the Champions League and Europa League places and the relegation battle will all be decided over the next six weeks.

Former Arsenal and England defender Keown addresses the key issues ahead of this weekend’s fixtures as well as a look at England’s state of play after their recent results.

And remember, you can get involved in Tackle Keown by tweeting your question with the hashtag #TackleKeown. We kick off at 12.30pm.

  • Martin Keown

    Host commentator

That’s all from Tackle Keown today, see you next week.

It will be an emotional occasion for Barcelona with all of the tributes to Cruyff. But I think it’s hard to look beyond them for the win. They have a big advantage in La Liga and I don’t expect them to slip.

But I’m looking forward to seeing how Gareth Bale plays. He will have appreciated the rest over the international break and will be looking forward to a huge game. He is a wonderful player and has done exceptionally well for Madrid. Sometimes I think he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

I also wonder whether his team-mates could do more to try and find him. They always look for Cristiano Ronaldo but not so much Bale. But there lies the difference between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

At Barca it doesn’t matter who they look for – Messi, Suarez, Neymar – they are all equals. You can’t help but think that at Madrid everybody looks for Ronaldo. He is an unbelievable player but a demanding one. You also feel that he and Bale should actually be closer as team-mates but they don’t seem to be. It look Luis Suarez’s arrival to really bring Messi and Neymar together, maybe Madrid need a similar man to complete a trio with Bale and Ronaldo.

Former Tottenham winger Gareth Bale talks to the media on Wednesday

I certainly do. I was eight in 1974 and that season was my first real taste of watching football. I remember vividly watching the FA Cup final and then that was followed by the World Cup. ‘The orange team’ as we called them – we didn’t even really know them – had incredible players and Cruyff was the standout. God knows how many times that turn against Sweden was shown but it certainly made us want to go out and play football.

I actually met him at Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial and he was a lot smaller than I thought. He always looked to be this elegant but powerful player and that surprised me. But he really was a total football man.

You only have to look at the work he put in at Ajax and Barcelona – their philosophies stem from everything he believed in – and the tributes from both clubs this week to understand his stature in the game. I also admire his appetite to get former players involved in his old clubs and you can see that now at Ajax and Barcelona.

I was at Wembley for the Holland game on Tuesday and the respect shown was heartfelt. Even though it was a predominantly English crowd, everybody recognised Cruyff’s importance and his immense contribution to football.

Johan Cruyff – left, in the Barcelona dugout in 1992 – made an immense contribution to football

I think it would be wrong if Neville didn’t get back into management somewhere, and quickly. Otherwise the Valencia experience will look like a waste of time. He will have learned a great deal in that short space of time and now I think he has to decide whether he wants to be a manager or a coach.

Only he can decide but he looks to me like a person who wants to be a leader and have his own voice heard. If that means being a manager then that comes with all of the consequences – if results don’t work, it’s you who will be losing your job. But Gary knows all of that and I don’t see him as a quitter.

I shared an England dressing room with him and he always made sure he put the work in to get to the top of the pile. It may be the same with management, where he has to work to get to the top. But with each new job he takes that pressure will only increase.

As for the next spot? Who knows. It wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility that Aston Villa might consider him. But right now he is working with England and his involvement at Euro 2016 will make it difficult whichever path he takes.

Neville has the opportunity to go back and work for Sky Sports as a pundit

I can’t say I feel sorry for him. I think it was brave of him to go and take the job though of course he’ll be bitterly disappointed it hasn’t worked. Maybe the dream of jumping from the sofa to the dugout doesn’t exist for us pundits anymore! Because this is one experiment that has failed in spectacular fashion.

All of the Nevilles are clearly doers and it didn’t suit him just to talk about others’ successes as a pundit, he wanted to write the next chapter in his career. I think he should be applauded for trying to do that, not ridiculed. And his failure in Spain doesn’t take anything away from intelligence or knowledge as a football pundit.

It was a brave move to go to another country in your first managerial job but it was an incredible opportunity. He said as a pundit he would probably have criticised his own appointment because of his lack of experiece. Well, now he’s got that. But I don’t think the owner had many other options with the pressure on and results poor.

Gary Neville was sacked by Valencia on Wednesday after just four months in the job

I can understand where you’re coming from, Kiley, but if they don’t see Garde as part of the vision for the future and want to start rebuilding now then they had to get rid of him.

I’ve felt sorry for Remi Garde because he is a good guy and a good person. He has worked with a great deal of dignity and because I know him, I fully expected that. However, there were times when I think the message should have been one of accepting the trouble they were in and trying to restore some pride in the shirt. That didn’t happen enough.

But for any manager, Aston Villa is a good opportunity, even if they are in the Championship. Whoever comes in should relish the chance to bring that club back up. I know they’re running a book on Nigel Pearson, especially with his experience of promotion, but I can’t help but think that a club of this size and stature would be perfect for David Moyes.

Moyes is a dignified person and it looks like Villa are putting together a stable of intelligent workers behind the scenes. They give me the impression they are there for the long-term and I think Moyes would be a good fit for that. He had 10 years at Everton but just 10 months at Old Trafford. With Villa he might have to learn to work in a slightly quicker fashion but he would definitely have a long-term vision.

If a manager is brought in straight away, they will have a good chance to learn about their players or, if they keep a caretaker for now, the next man could at least be booked in so he can watch and learn from afar.

Ex-Manchester United manager David Moyes is among the favourites for the Aston Villa job

At the moment we are seeing a lot of people behind the scenes arriving at the club. I just hope they can identify somebody to come out and talk so that the fans can relate and start to believe again. Because now it’s important that Villa have a vision to build towards.
For too long things have been heading backwards. The owner has wanted to sell and it feels like the club has been emptied it out in readiness for that. But you can’t run a club in that way.

When you turn up at Aston Villa, you can’t fail to be impressed. The stadium is one of the best in the country, the training ground is first class and they have so much history. But it can be a tough atmosphere there, the supporters can be scathing, largely because of everything they have achieved in the past. It is a demanding place to play but as a player you have to understand that and connect with it.

This club now needs people with Aston Villa in their heart, who will stop at nothing to get them back to where they were, which even at the start of this season was just being in the Premier League. That’s all gone now and they have to be very careful they don’t get on a slippery slope.

But this season has been a nightmare for the Villa fans. They have not played with enough purpose – there’s been lots of passing but it’s all been for the sake of possession with no end product. And defensively they have been so vulnerable. Off the pitch it’s almost a case déjà vu for me – when I was relegated with the club we had two managers in a season and another one to finish it off.

Now they have to regroup and rebuild. They only have to look at what Leicester have done and how teams like Southampton have coped. They should be the biggest club in the midlands but they have to fight to get there again.

Aston Villa defenders lie strewn on the floor as Harry Kane scores against them

It can be a brilliant time of year. You’re just coming into spring, there is so much more colour, you enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass. Life feels good if you’re at the top. But for all that, of course there is huge pressure.

If you’re in form, then everybody around you starts to think it’s in the bag. It’s up to you and your team-mates to stay calm because you know it isn’t as simple as that. It’s so tough to get there and get over the line. You can enjoy it but sometimes you have to pinch yourself to make sure you don’t go overboard.

At Arsenal in 2002, we were in a fantastic position but you can’t afford to fall into a false sense of security. You can’t start to pat yourself on the back when the media and pundits are already congratulating you and looking towards the end-of-season awards. All of that is a distraction. We stayed professional and we won our last 13 games in a row. That’s what you need to do.

If you start to pay attention to everything going on around you it can distract and if you don’t see the job through, that will have a hollow look at the end of your career.

On the training ground, the mood tends to be great if you’re top of the table. There’s no bitching going on and no factions. Everybody’s laughing at your jokes, even mine! Because when you’re winning games as a professional footballer, life doesn’t really get much better. It’s for these moments that you work and strive. You want to be involved in the big games and that’s what every game is in a title run-in.

Leicester’s situation could not be further away from where they were this time last year but that will give them great mental strength over the next few weeks. When they had to really come out and go for it last year they were a much better team. I hope they’ve learned from that because now is not the time to be cautious. They need a comprehensive victory sometime soon to calm the nerves brought about by these scrappy 1-0 wins.

Martin Keown (centre) celebrates winning his third Premier League title with Arsenal in 2004

It was a good win at Everton and, looking at their fixtures, Arsenal have some winnable matches. The trouble is that just when it looks like Arsenal are out of contention, that’s when they find a rich vein of form. They were brilliant towards the end of last season but Chelsea already had the title in the bag.

I think the presence of Mohamed Elneny and Danny Welbeck has given a fresh impetus to the team and Arsene Wenger is playing with two holding midfielders now which makes them more secure. They’ve got Watford on Saturday and will want to put right that FA Cup loss while Watford might not be sure they can go to the Emirates and produce a result like that again.

I think other than West Ham and Man City away, the rest of Arsenal’s games are winnable. And it certainly helps that their first game back after the international break is at home. The last thing you want to be doing as a player is arriving back home and packing up another suitcase to head off somewhere else.

Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny (pictured) has been in fine form since signing

It’s hard to feel any real confidence about Man City at the moment. Their form is poor and whenever Vincent Kompany is not there they look lost. It’s not just his performances on the pitch, it’s his leadership skills.

Kompany seems like management material already. We are not seeing as much of him anymore in the media but whenever we do see him he speaks so well. He does a great job for his manager and does a lot of that work, installing determination in his team-mates and he is a real driving force. City look rudderless when he doesn’t play.

We know there is creativity in the team but he is a strong voice at the back and his presence helps City to stay in games and gives his team-mates a chance to win them.
As for Bournemouth, they have done remarkably well this season and at the moment they top the newly promoted teams. They will certainly give City an uncomfortable ride.

Eddie Howe has got them into the perfect position – this is exactly where he would have wanted to be at the start of the season. They are within touching distance of safety, which means they could really enjoy the international break and now look forward to the challenge of the upcoming games. They will be thinking: ‘Bring on these Premier League games.’

They have come from a situation of playing 46 league games last year and this will be starting to feel comfortable. So they can come into this game full of confidence. They will have to be cautious as they have conceded quite a few goals at home – it’s not quite been the fortress they hoped for – but they won’t hold any fear on Saturday.

Injured Manchester City pait Joe Hart (left) and Vincent Kompany train this week

Norwich had an excellent victory away at West Brom just before the international break. Tony Pulis likes to keep things tight and nick a goal but Norwich beat them at their own game. That was a really good afternoon’s work but this match is different.

This is a game they must not lose, particularly as it’s at home. That makes life so difficult because that creates a nervous mindset – before the game even starts you are thinking about trying to protect what you have. Newcastle will feel less pressure playing on the road and have to take the initiative to go and win the match.

When I watched Newcastle face Leicester in Rafa Benitez’s first game, they were as organised as they’ve looked all season. He clearly got his message across quickly. They lost but there were already small signs of improvement. Now he has got to inject the confidence back into his team. That can be hard after an international break – it’s a whole fortnight to worry about your future – but it’s also a period where the manager can consolidate and get his feet under the table. The next few weeks will really show us how good a manager Benitez is. He’s not been in this position before.

For Alex Neil, his side has got to go for the jugular, but I worry where the goals come from with Norwich. They don’t really have a leading man up front. And for a game like this they have to prepare their minds as much as their bodies.

Norwich have been up and down in recent seasons and they can’t afford to play with any fear, but Newcastle have been at the bottom this season for a reason.

I expect Norwich to try and grind out a win on Saturday but that makes it nervy, especially with the fans. If you’re trying to play attacking football you get the fans behind you and the players are much more free in their minds. Norwich can’t sit deep and try to mop up Newcastle attacks, they have to go and have a go themselves. But I have a feeling Newcastle will win this one. This Premier League season has been so unpredictable and a Newcastle win would really stir things up at the bottom.

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez takes training earlier this month

Well, Jackie, I’m actually still backing Tottenham to do it. Leicester have produced a fairytale this season but right now I think Tottenham look like the side playing better football. Leicester have been getting results but I’ve noticed a sense of nervousness start to develop in their play.

Their recent wins have been scrappy and hard-fought. Of course it’s all about results but they have to try and regain the level of performance they showed earlier in the season, otherwise the nerves really will start to kick in.

I think their next three fixtures – Southampton at home, Sunderland away and West Ham at home – will be absolutely key. I think they are all tough games and think they may end up drawing all of them. That would give Spurs an opportunity to close the gap but with a tough run of their own – Liverpool away, Man United at home and Stoke away – that is easier said than done. But if Leicester do win those three games, I think that will be enough to win it. I can’t see anybody catching them if they do that.

Leicester celebrate a winner by Shinji Okazaki (left) against Newcastle

It’s going to be a very interesting tournament, Gavin, that’s for sure. With no clear favourites, I do wonder whether France as the home nation will do well. Home advantage often seems to be a factor at major tournaments – look at how far Guus Hiddink took South Korea in the 2002 World Cup and two of England’s best tournament performances came at home in 1966 and 1996.

On home soil I do think we could see a bit of a re-emerging of the French. I know it’s a few years ago, but I was impressed by them at the 2014 World Cup. In the quarter-final they lost 1-0 to Germany but there was nothing in that game. And we all remember what Germany did to Brazil in the semi-finals. I came away from that game impressed with France and they have been steadily improving. They dismantled Russia this week and seem to have a very good crop of players.

Raphael Varane has quietly become the best centre half in Europe. There are still some question marks over his leadership but he is still young and as a defender I struggle to see a better one. They have an excellent goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris and seem to have depth across the squad. Paul Pogba is a star and we all know what Dimitri Payet and N’Golo Kante can bring to this squad.

France don’t seem to have been mentioned much as we almost always expect Germany to do well in tournaments. But the result against England will have raised eyebrows, though it’s always difficult to gauge friendlies.

The other name always mentioned is Spain, but they seem to have lost some of their aura. Whenever we watch them, we expect to see Barcelona but in recent years that has not been the case. Of course they are a quality side but they are not quite the world beaters of a few years ago.

As for England, I can understand Roy Hodgson’s disappointment after the Holland game but we are in good shape for this tournament. We had an exemplary qualification campaign, we beat the Germans in Germany with half of the team still thinking about chasing a Premier League title and we lost a close game to Holland thanks to some dubious decisions.

England had 60 per cent possession in that match, which is a major turnaround for us, and there is excitement about this young team. I know there are still issues at the back but there is good reason to be positive.

It’s also important to remember that at this time of the season a lot of the players have bigger fish to fry with their clubs and for me the England team have done very well.

Dimitri Payet scored this outstanding free-kick for France against Russia

I recognise this is an issue for Roy Hodgson but, to be honest, it would be a backwards step. This group of players has helped Roy to qualify with an impeccable record and I wouldn’t think he’d be about to jettison any of them now. You have to trust in the players and protect their long-term development, especially John Stones.

I think if Hodgson did go back to Terry it would be such a hit to their confidence because it would suggest he thinks they’re not good enough when they are the future of this team. I also see no reason to do it from a playing sense either. If we were talking about the John Terry of last season with Chelsea winning the league, then it would be a different matter. Terry was outstanding last year but I still would not have supported it because you should trust the players that have got you to the tournament in the first place.

John Terry (left) is being considered for a recall by Roy Hodgson (right)



No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts,
or debate this issue live on our message boards.

Who is this week’s top commenter?
Find out now