Arsenal hero Martin Keown has warned Phil Jones and Chris Smalling that they are running out of time to prove themselves at the highest level, and need to do more to cement their claim for places in the England setup.
As per the Daily Mail, the ex-England international told how he believed the duo were disappointing at the moment, with neither having enjoyed a successful campaign. Despite both being tipped for big things when signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United, they’ve struggled to make a proper impact in the first-team, and Louis van Gaal doesn’t look too comfortable with relying on them either.
Keown said that the pair looked nervous during the FA Cup defeat against his former side recently, and that they were perhaps lucky to have made Roy Hodgson’s cut for the international fixtures against Lithuania and Italy.
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"The likes of Phil Jones and Smalling are not really training on. They're a disappointment at the moment, I think they've just started to lift it again the last couple of matches, looking more the part," Keown said.
"They looked nervous, particularly that game against Arsenal in the FA Cup, both of them looked like they needed an arm round them.
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"It's [the England spot] in Jones' hands and Smalling's hands because you're not going to get too many more chances to stake that claim for England and Jagielka has done extremely well to fend that off."
Struggles to date
You would think if anyone would know what it takes to become a top-class centre-half, it would be Keown. That said, it doesn’t take a footballing genius to see that Jones and Smalling have struggled to cement their positions in the heart of United’s defence, and therefore their claims for a place in the England squad have suffered.
It looks as well like things could get worse if the pair don’t improve, with Van Gaal said to be on the lookout for new defenders ahead of the summer transfer window. Dynamo Kiev’s Aleksandar Dragovic is rumoured to have been scouted recently, whilst Mats Hummels remains a long-term target.
Who goes first?
If either of the duo are to leave Smalling will probably get the shove ahead of his teammate due to Jones’ excellent versatility. Arsenal have been linked with the former of late, though other reports infer that Van Gaal wants keep him.
United fans, is Keown right? Are Smalling and Jones running out of time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.
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