When Rob Holding came to Arsenal, many were baffled by Arsene Wenger’s purchase of the £2.70m defender from Bolton in 2016. The Frenchman gradually introduced him into the side, giving him time and experience at the top level of English football and by 2017, Holding looked on course for a regular slot in central defence, having contained, intimidated and dominated Diego Costa in Arsenal’s impressive FA cup win over Chelsea.
Like many, I thought of the defender as an emerging natural leader, a pivotal figure at the back and a candidate for the captaincy. Sadly, if anything, Rob Holding has gone backwards. Not by a little but by a lot and if you asked me if I thought he had a long term future at Arsenal, the answer would have to be no.
Holding hasn’t shown the same fire in his belly as he did against Costa and although a serious injury has interrupted his progress, the required maturity and accelerated development have been missing.
Do I believe Holding to be the next Tony Adams ? No of course not. Adams spent 22 years at Arsenal, 14 as it’s captain and made 669 appearances, winning 10 major trophies, including League titles in three different decades. Holding isn’t likely to come remotely close.
When examining Holding’s success or failure, one has to appreciate the simple truth, one manager and a head coach presided over him but Koscielny, Mustafi and Sokratis have all jumped the queue for the central defender’s slot.
Koscielny hobbled about, wasn’t fit and was in desperate need of rest but Wenger often preferred the Frenchman to his English counterpart.
Under Emery, Mustafi’s fluffy performances and shortcomings still saw him chosen ahead of Holding on numerous occasions. It was only when the fans, rightly or wrongly made the German the scapegoat for Arsenal’s failure, that he was granted permanent residency on the bench.
Sokratis has a big heart and is fully committed to the cause but Rob Holding should have ensured he pushed the Greek hard for a starting position, he hasn’t.
If you are about to mention the recent bad luck, apart from rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in 2018, Holding has had a relatively injury free existence. So why has he failed to push on ? Why did Arsenal need William Saliba and why are they looking for a long term partners such as Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)
Why are Arsenal looking at the permanent signing of Pablo Mari, if Holding is the man to solve Arsenal’s annual defensive crisis ?
Surely Holding is good enough to do that ! Well no, that’s the point, it appears Arsenal don’t see him as the answer to the defensive problems that have been there since he arrived.
As Arteta settles in, he may see Holding as surplus to requirements and someone that can generate additional transfer funds. Sadly, as much as many fans wanted him to succeed, he may have missed his opportunity.