‘Tower of strength’ – Pundits heap praise on Arsenal defensive pair as best in league question asked

Central defenders William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes were crucial to Arsenal’s clean sheet and draw against Manchester City – are they the best pairing in the Premier League?

William Saliba and Gabriel of Arsenal

Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Micah Richards gave a glittering review of Arsenal defensive duo William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes for their contribution against Manchester City.

The Gunners stood firm to limit their opponents to one shot on target and subsequently keep a clean sheet at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, marking the first time City have failed to score there since October 2021.

Given the array of attacking talent at Pep Guardiola’s disposal, Shearer was first full of praise for Man of the Match Saliba and partner Gabriel, as the duo kept the spearhead of the opposing forward line, Erling Haaland, frustrated throughout the afternoon.

“Massive – they were a tower of strength. I mean [that is] how to play Haaland,” Shearer said on The Rest is Football podcast. “When you’re up against Bernardo Silva, up against Haaland, when [Jeremy] Doku comes on, [Jack] Grealish comes on, [Kevin] de Bruyne, all of these brilliant players, you know you’ve got to get everything right

“Get your movement right, be in sync, have distances. Everything about Arsenal was spot on but those two were absolutely magnificent in the centre of defence.”

Lineker then posed the question: “Are they the best centre defensive pairing in the league at the moment?

“I mean you look at [Virgil] van Dijk and whoever he plays with. I suppose if everyone is fit at Manchester City as well you go [Ruben] Dias and [John] Stones. There’s some great central defensive pairings.”

In response, Richards added: “When you’re watching from a defender’s point of view, City are going to have a lot of possession, so what is your concentration going to be like at key moments? I thought they got it spot on.

“You’ve got to give credit to Gabriel. Saliba got Man of the Match and he’s done well, but Gabriel has improved so much as well and become a real leader of that back four. Really has.”

The result means Mikel Arteta’s side go the season unbeaten against City and Liverpool, though now trail the latter by two points in the title race.

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