Arsenal are currently in the epicentre of a defensive crisis. Their current first choice defence has failed to keep a clean sheet this season and a failure to keep clean sheets has been a common occurrence. Whilst coaching is a large part of the issue, it has to be said that simple mistakes have been made which further inflict on the damage. Shkodran Mustafi has been a figure of recent criticism having made the same mistake in two consecutive matches which have lead to goals. Whilst there is a lot I like about him, he is far too rash in his decision making and doesn’t think enough. Consistency is also a big issue with his game. Now taking all this into account let’s have a look at Rob Holding. The young English defender is almost a direct opposite. Holding is excellent at reading the game and being composed on the ball his style of play completely contradicts Mustafi’s style. Whilst Mustafi is much better at throwing himself in front of the ball and pulling off impressive last ditch tackles, Holding is a thinker, he finds a good position and reads the game. He understands when to go in for the tackle and when to drop off, and is all round more reliable than Mustafi. Down to his inexperience and struggles in the first team this season, he has fallen out of favour but that does not mean he will not reverse his form and fortune. I’m confident he will be Arsenal’s first choice in the coming years and has an excellent opportunity to press down a spot in the first team for next season.
Rob Holding broke onto the Arsenal scene towards the latter stages of last season. There he endured an impressive first spell at the club, slotting into a back 3 and winning in the FA cup final against Chelsea. However, this season has been very different. He has lost the impressive form of last season and as a result his confidence as well. But that does not mean it’s the end for him. Holding is still Arsenal’s best defensive prospect. On the ball he is composed under pressure and is solid with his passing. Defensively he is strong, good in the air and reads the game well. But that’s not all he offers, he has the character and fight to win that all great players have and it is for that reason he will bounce back.
Holding is now at the age of 22. Sooner or later he needs to take his chance when a player who currently starts in the starting 11 is left out or is injured. Holding himself knows this, he has already issued a warning to both Koscielny and Mustafi, Arsenal’s current first choice centre backs, by saying, “I’m there, pushing, any little mistakes from Koscielny and Mustafi or slight injuries, I want to be the first one [Wenger] he’s looking to”. I personally liked this. Not only does it show that Holding has faith in his own ability, it is also a sign of his return to confidence. It proves that he has the desire to win his spot and proves my earlier point that he is a winner.
It will only be a matter of time before Holding is a regular at Arsenal, he has the makings of an Arsenal Captain one day if he manages to retain his desire to win and will to improve. Holding has shown he has the intelligence and understanding of the game, with his calmness and composure, as well as, his reading of the game to intercept play. He has also shown he is physically capable of standing up to the most physically imposing strikers around such as Troy Deeney and Diego Costa. The latter he actually confronted and riled in the FA Cup final where Costa reacted angrily him, Holding showed the maturity and awareness to not react aggressively back, but instead attempt to wind the loose cannon, Costa, up. Holding has all the makings of an outstanding centre back and with the correct management will soon be Arsenal’s and England’s first choice.
This season it feels as though he has been protected by the manager. Holding, who is a young player, out of form and lacking confidence needs positivity around him to bounce back to form. At the moment there is a lot of toxicity around the club due to another failed league campaign. Holding may not have featured as regularly as most would have expected following his impressive performances last season, but that does not mean he has been thrown to the side. As it stands: Mustafi, Koscielny and Chambers are all ahead of Holding in terms of pecking order. But Holding has the potential to pass them all and become a great and fan favourite of the club.