“They’re The Reason” – Rio Ferdinand Names The 2 Arsenal Players Who Will Be Pivotal In Title Challenge

TNT Sports pundit Rio Ferdinand believes the centre-back partnership of William Saliba and Gabriel will make Arsenal the main challenger for Manchester City in the title race.

Liverpool have also put their name in the hat by holding the reigning champions to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad on Saturday but, after the Gunners went top of the table with a 1-0 win over Brentford, Ferdinand said their strong defence could end up being a deciding factor:


“To win anything, you have to have a centre-back pairing that you can trust. They’re the reason why I put them above Liverpool in the title race and they’re why they can challenge City this year.”

Arsenal currently have the best defensive record in the top flight, having conceded only 10 goals in 13 league games, so you can see where Ferdinand is coming from with his remarks.

If we delve deeper into the numbers too, their xG conceded figure of 12.71 also shows that they are not keeping clean sheets down to luck. They are restricting their opponents to fewer opportunities too.

Keeping Saliba fit is of vital importance for Arsenal

While Ferdinand paid tribute to both Saliba and Gabriel, it’s probably fair to say that the Frenchman is the senior partner out of the two.

When Saliba missed the last three months of the 2022/23 season with a back problem, the Gunners struggled to keep clean sheets, so ensuring that the 22-year-old stays on the pitch is key for Mikel Arteta’s side to maintain their title challenge.

The Gunners have two winnable fixtures coming up

Arteta’s men face Luton Town next in the league at Kenilworth Road before they host Wolves at the Emirates next month. They will be hoping to take six points from those two matches.

Arsenal do have a difficult run of fixtures after that, though, as they take on Aston Villa (a), Brighton (h) and Liverpool (a) right before Christmas.

Watch the Chris Wheatley Show on Shots!TV here as Chris reveals Arsenal’s mystery midfield target

David Tully

David Tully

David has worked as a football reporter for the last fifteen years. Having started as an intern at Snack Media, he then went on to become a freelancer, working on various different sites. At the start of 2023, he took up his current role as content writer for National World's Football News Network.