Laurent Koscielny has missed big chunks of the season with injury.
The French international has long been considered the Gunners’ number one centre-back, and his performances over the past 18 months have drawn parallels with previous club greats.
This season, Arsene Wenger has had to shuffle his pack on a number of occasions due to an apparent defensive injury crisis and results have suffered as a result.
Koscielny has started just eight of the North Londoners’ 16 matches this season – picking up 15 points and conceding just seven goals with him in the XI and a telling 11 points and 12 goals shipped in his absence.
Aside from the obvious statistics, the former Lorient star’s pace at the back is the notable difference, and Keown believes that his absence has been a big blow so far to the Gunners’ top-four hopes.
“The absence of Laurent Koscielny has been a big blow for Arsenal. Over the past two or three years he has grown into one of the best all-round defenders in the league,” he told the Daily Mail.
“His mobility is his biggest asset and Arsenal have missed his pace. He seeks out danger and snuffs it out.”
The 29-year-old is to miss the Emirates outfit’s trip to Liverpool on Sunday, a game which could have a big say in the race for Champions League qualification come next May.
The Reds have been disappointing this season but in Raheem Sterling they have a player who will look to exploit the weaknesses and lack of pace in Koscielny’s absence.