During the remainder of the season, Rob Holding has one final chance to salvage his Arsenal career. In his first Premier League start under Mikel Arteta against Brighton, he made a good start.
Rob Holding has been waiting for a long time for his chance. After starting the 2018/19 season in excellent form, establishing himself as one of Unai Emery’s key defenders, his ruptured ACL in early December tore through his Arsenal career in the same way that it destroyed his knee.
Since that time, Holding has been unable to get and stay fit. He missed the remainder of that season and only fleetingly returned to the team before Emery’s departure in November, just under a year after Holding suffered the injury. Since then, he has struggled for playing time, largely overlooked by Mikel Arteta, who succeeded Emery in late December.
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However, upon an injury and suspension crisis at the position, Holding is now thrust into the starting line-up. Pablo Mari will miss the rest of the season through injury, David Luiz is suspended for the next two matches and must sign a contract extension to see out the year, while Sokratis is still absent through a lack of fitness. That leaves Arteta with just two fit and available centre-backs, one of which is Holding.
Holding will turn 25 this September. For a player of which much has always been thought of, his future is now here. Holding must deliver in the present, not simply shows signs of what he might one day become. And with William Saliba set to arrive in the summer and Arteta looking to retool the position, this is Holding’s final chance to stake a claim to a starting spot. He cannot afford to waste it.
On Saturday, Holding made his first league start since Arteta arrived six months ago. Arsenal lost to Brighton 2-1, conceding two soft goals in the process. That never reflects well on a central defender. And there certainly were some nervy moments for Holding, who scrambled to clear the opening goal off the line. But on the whole, it was a positive outing.
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Holding’s primary issues stemmed from his nervousness and lack of match sharpness. He looked a little slow on the turn at times and he took too long to release the ball, showing signs of nervousness and a lack of confidence. With more playing time, these moments will not be as prevalent.
For the most part, he looked comfortable. He passed the ball well, he stayed connected to his partner, Shkodran Mustafi, and Arsenal were rarely troubled by Brighton. They may have lost in disastrous fashion late on, but from a performance perspective, it was a much more encouraging outing than many have suggested. And Holding was a part of that.
This was, of course, one match. And Holding was far from perfect. But in his final chance to salvage his Arsenal career, this was a good start. Now he must follow it up.