Former England and Arsenal defender Martin Keown has given his thoughts on the best way to stop the man-mountain that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The now Daily Mail columnist told Sportsmail readers what he would do if he came up against the Swedish striker. Current defenders should take note too.
Keown said: “I wouldn’t want to get too tight to him. Shawcross played one game for England and tried to outmuscle Ibrahimovic and he got turned and it didn't work.”
That might seem pretty obvious but, as Keown points out, even an established Premier League defender has made the rookie mistake of getting too tight to such a strong and powerful striker.
He added: “When you play against someone like Ibrahimovic, if you’re well organised, you read the game well, you're strong in the air, it’s OK. But you need to have the full package.”
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Keown drew on Paris Saint-Germain’s game with Chelsea on Tuesday night claiming that Ibrahimovic got the better of John Terry.
“Ibrahimovic found Terry’s weakness in his lack of mobility when they played on Tuesday," Keown added. "He found too much space.”
But this argument does not hold much weight as the PSG striker spent most of his game on Tuesday night playing against Gary Cahill as he wasn’t actually getting any joy out of the Chelsea captain.
Ibrahimovic was beating Cahill to the ball when PSG went long but, apart from one run on the edge of Chelsea’s box, he was hardly given a sniff by the defence. They kept him pretty quiet and it was Edinson Cavani that caused the most problems for the Blues.
Nevertheless, you get Keown's point, in that Ibrahimovic is a very clever striker as he is quick to exploit defender's weaknesses, for example, a lack of pace.
He said: “Are you as quick as him? If not, you try to win it as early as possible. Get in when the ball is played. If that doesn’t work, if he tries to run at you, you've got to get it off him quickly.
“I don't think he's really rapid, but I’d fancy myself if he was running at me to get a challenge in and get the ball away.
"If I let him get an arm on me, I know he’s got the strength to push me away.”
A distant memory springs to mind of a player running at Keown with pace. 1999? FA Cup semi-final? Manchester United? Villa Park? Ring any bells, Martin?
Ryan Giggs tore Arsenal to pieces that day with his blistering pace and his iconic run down the left wing that led to one of the greatest goals in FA Cup history. It probably still haunts Keown to this day, and there was no sign of him getting a challenge in on that occasion.
Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, did actually have a trial at Arsenal as a teenager but it never worked out for the Swede.
Keown explained: “When he turned up at Arsenal as a teenager we were joking that he was a centre-half.”
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