Merson names duo who could decide title race between Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City

Will Ford
merson arsenal
Paul Merson reckons two players give Arsenal the edge in the title race.

Paul Merson has picked out two players who could decide the Premier League title race this season.

The drab 0-0 draw between Arsenal and Manchester City on Sunday handed Liverpool a two-point lead over the Gunners at the top of the table after their 2-1 win over Brighton earlier in the day.

“They are extremely solid.”

With just three points separating the top three it’s all to play for with nine games to go, and Merson has explained why he believes the Arsenal centre-back pairing of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes may give Mikel Arteta’s side the edge.

“You’d have to say William Saliba and Gabriel are the best center-back pairing in the league,” Merson told Sky Sports.

“They are so consistent and that is helped by the fact they consistently play together. Look at Manchester City, their two center-backs change around a lot.

“It’s changed a lot for Liverpool in recent times too. How many times has Rúben Dias’ partner changed at City? It’s the same as Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool. But at Arsenal, Saliba looks left and he sees Gabriel, and Gabriel looks right and sees Saliba week in, week out. That really helps defenders.

“What also helps them is the protection they get from midfield. Whether it is Declan Rice or Jorginho, or both, they are two midfielders that are very disciplined and good at what they do. They don’t just run around all over the pitch, they play the position very well just like Rodri does at City.

“A word too for the likes of Jakub Kiwior and Ben White, and goalkeeper David Raya, who took a while to settle after his move from Brentford but has been outstanding in recent months. They are extremely solid.”

Arsenal for the Champions League

Merson went on to suggest these players could also be the difference makers in Europe, after tipping his former side to secure their first Champions League this season.

He added: “It was a magnificent defensive performance at City and when you see such a solid performance, you have to give Arsenal a chance in the Champions League.”

Nigel Winterburn, who played in one of the best Arsenal defences of all-time featuring Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Lee Dixon believes Saliba now deserves to be compared to the Premier League’s best defenders.

“I see a little bit of Virgil van Dijk in Saliba,” Winterburn told Football365 in association with, as he compared Arsenal’s defensive talisman to the Liverpool captain.

“He has that turn of pace, he is comfortable playing out under pressure and I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the best of him. He is still so young, but he is already playing at a very high level.

“Saliba was superb at the weekend against Manchester City in what was a magnificent defensive team performance.

“We built the game up and we were thinking it was going to be a classic with a lot of goals, but it didn’t work out like that and Arsenal deserved credit for restricting City and denying them the space to do what they do so well.

“Arsenal were superb defensively and while they may have missed a few chances to gain some momentum going forward, it was an outstanding effort to stop Manchester City. I’m not sure I’ve seen an Arsenal team play that well defensively for a long time.

“When you look at the recent history of matches between Arsenal and Man City, a draw at the Etihad is always a good result, even if it did hand Liverpool the initiative in the title race for now.”

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