Martin Keown on Diego Costa: I'd love to go toe-to-toe with Chelsea striker and show that I wouldn't be bullied, says ex-Arsenal defender

'I was a little bit crazy and I’m pretty sure he is too'

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Former Arsenal and England centre-back Martin Keown has said that he wishes he could bring Diego Costa back to his era so that he could play against him.

The Chelsea striker was involved in huge controversy as the Blues beat the Gunners at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, an incident that eventually led to Arsenal centre-back Gabriel Paulista being sent off for kicking out at the striker.

Costa had seemingly gone unpunished despite grabbing the face of Laurent Koscielny, hitting out at him then chesting him to the ground, before seemingly scratching Gabriel on the neck.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was furious with referee Mike Dean, and the FA will look at Dean's official report before deciding whether to take retrospective action against the Spaniard.

But writing in his column for the Daily Mail, Keown says he would have relished the chance to play against the striker and show that he "wouldn't be bullied by him".

"Once in a while I wish I could beam a current player back to my era so I could play against them", he writes. "Diego Costa is top of that list. I was a little bit crazy and I’m pretty sure he is too, so I’d love to go toe-to-toe with him and show him that I wouldn’t be bullied by him.

"It used to be that a defender would set the tone in a match with a first clattering challenge on the striker he was marking.

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Keown clashes with Ruud van Nistelrooy at Old Trafford in 2003

"With Costa, it’s the opposite. He smashes into the defender who is marking him as soon as possible, looking for a reaction or an almost inevitable retaliation a few minutes later. Then he goes straight down in a heap or immediately over to the referee, waving imaginary cards and trying to get people in trouble."

Keown, who was sent off seven times for Arsenal, continues: "The clever thing about Costa’s approach is that he has worked out more or less where the line is with regards to getting sent off. He slaps rather than throws punches, he flails his arms rather than elbows and he winds people up with words.

"It worked against Arsenal with Gabriel the man to go. But the way Costa went about it leaves a really sour taste in the mouth. He won’t care. In fact, he will probably have got a pat on the back from Jose Mourinho after the game and a wink of appreciation from his team-mates.

"I enjoyed the physical side of the game — I’d go in hard with my tackles and pinch someone occasionally — but I never actively tried to get someone sent off.

"I’d try to overpower him and then give him a taste of his own medicine by reacting like he does. I’d look for the help of the referee: if you fall over, so will I. He’d have to know that he couldn’t trust me either. I’d tread the line carefully — whatever happens, I’m staying on the pitch.

"That’s how you beat him. Enjoy it, relish it."

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