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Arsenal's record appearance-holder
A true class act in an Arsenal shirt, David O’Leary was almost balletic in his performances. He was a fine defender and the clubs record appearance-holder—with 772 games in a Gunners shirt.
He might not be most people’s choice to partner Adams in an all-time back four, but few else have or will leave a mark as indelible on the club as O’Leary did.
Much like Adams, he started as a cautious 17-year-old who seemed edgy in his judgement, but through hard work and flourishing ability he turned into one of the club’s great centre-backs.
Forwards weren’t to be fooled by his rangy physique either—he was a hard defender. He scarcely shrunk from a challenge and was never afraid to put the boot in when the time was right.
But O’Leary was a new type of footballer, a new breed of defender for his time. He was a hybrid of tough-tackling and elegant style—he knew how to play football and pass it out from the back. Aerially he was dominant too; his height proved advantageous in set-piece situations.
There is a plethora of fine defenders who have graced the Arsenal history books, and in the future there will be several more. But a player of this class comes around only so often. His loyalty to the club as a player was unwavering, and his commitment on the pitch was undoubted.
O’Leary paved the way for the likes of Adams and Bould. In a career that spanned over 20 years he won 6 major honours with the Gunners, but he did so much more for the club in his time there than simply winning trophies.
During two spells at Arsenal, Keown developed a reputation for being one of the most domineering centre-backs of his time. His tenacity and will to win was second to none and although he was never the most gracious of defenders, his ability to tackle and marshal the line were exemplary.