Micah Richards and Alan Shearer hail William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes after Arsenal draw with Man City | Football

Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba nullified Manchester City’s threat at the Etihad (Picture: Getty)

Micah Richards has showered William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes with praise in the wake of Arsenal’s goalless draw at Manchester City, applauding the duo for ‘nullifying the threat’ posed by Pep Guardiola’s ‘predictable’ attack.

Supporters have been treated to the tightest title race in over a decade this season, with Arsenal sitting above Liverpool on goal difference heading into the weekend’s Premier League action.

After Liverpool came from behind to beat Brighton, Sunday afternoon’s stalemate in Manchester ensured Jurgen Klopp’s men leapfrogged the Gunners at the summit with nine games remaining of the campaign.

Erling Haaland cut a frustrated figure up front at the Etihad and received heavy criticism in the Sky Sports studio from former Manchester United captain Roy Keane, who said the Norwegian’s performance resembled that of a ‘League Two player’.

Ex-City defender Richards agreed that his former team were a long way from their best in attack but highlighted the influence of Arsenal’s ‘outstanding’ centre-back pairing as he reflected on the game for The Rest Is Football podcast.

‘It had the big build-up, it was the game that everyone wanted to see. Are Arsenal going to be a more improved team from last season when they went to the Etihad and Man City won that game?’ Richards said.

‘I thought Arsenal were outstanding defensively, especially Saliba and Gabriel. But the whole game was just a little bit drab, to say the least.

‘Tactically cancelling each other out is probably the best word for it and City just look a little bit off the pace in terms of sharpness in that final third.’

Gabriel and Erling Haaland

Haaland struggled to make an impact against the Gunners (Picture: Getty)

The former England international added: ‘At times, City were a little bit predictable, especially when you’ve got someone who has been alongside Pep in terms of what he wants to do in [Mikel] Arteta.

‘I just thought Arsenal nullified that threat to perfection.

‘[Bukayo] Saka was going really deep on one side, really helping out. Man City, with all the possession they had, just couldn’t unlock the door at times.’

Saliba has been a revelation alongside Gabriel at the heart of Arsenal’s defence (Picture: Getty)

Asked whether Saliba and Gabriel are among the best centre-back pairings in the Premier League, Richards replied: ‘We talked about [Micky] van de Ven and [Cristian] Romero and then Van de Ven got injured.

‘There are some really good pairings. But when you’re watching from a defender’s point of view, you know Man City are going to have a lot of the ball but what is your concentration going to be like at the key moments? And I just thought they got it spot on.

‘Positioning, when to go, when to drop off and they were basically saying, “Okay, you have the ball wide and we’ll flood the centre of the field”, and it was just amazing.

‘You’ve got to give credit to Gabriel. Saliba got man of the match and we always talk about Saliba and how well he’s done, but Gabriel has improved so much as well and become a real leader of that back four.’

Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all-time record goalscorer, said Saliba and Gabriel were ‘absolutely magnificent’ in snuffing out the likes of Haaland, Jeremy Doku, Jack Grealish and Kevin De Bruyne.

‘Wow. Massive. They were a tower of strength. How to play Haaland…’ the ex-Newcastle and England striker said.

‘When you’re up against Bernardo Silva, when you’re up against Haaland, when Doku comes on, when Grealish comes on, De Bruyne, all of these brilliant players, and you know you’ve got to get everything right, you’ve got to be in sync, you’ve got to have your movement right.

‘Everything about Arsenal I thought was spot on but those two were absolutely magnificent in the centre of defence.’

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