Most Arsenal fans will have had an underwhelming sort of ‘meh’ reaction to the news that our latest signing would be the relatively unheard of 20-year old defender from a Bolton team that finished rock bottom of the Championship last season. No offence to Rob Holding but I think most of us were not really expecting to see much of the lad this year, in terms of the Arsenal first team at least, but two things have made me reconsider this idea.
First there were the words of our new player in his first interview on the Arsenal website since joining the Gunners. He talks about the competition for places with the likes of Mertesacker and Koscielny but also about how the club giving young players a fair chance to show what they can do was a major part of his decision to join.
Holding said, “It gives young players a massive boost. They know that if they work hard and stick to what they know, they’ll get the chance. It’s what we work for.
“There’s massive competition here and it will only improve me. It will push me to new boundaries and hopefully I can prove my worth.”
It does not sound as though he is expecting to spend the year with the reserves or be sent out on loan. And his chances of first team football may have been given another boost this week, with perhaps one less player to compete with for his favoured position of centre back.
I am talking about the unexpected and unexplained absence of Gabriel from the pre-season game in Lens. Just a week ago we saw pictures on Arsenal.com that showed the Brazilian happily training and he had been one of the first group to come back to the club, so should have been in the starting line up on Friday, or at the very least on the bench.
He was not in the latest pictures from London Colney showing Holding, Xhaka, Cazorla and Wilshere training either, so what’s the story? Has he become the latest Gunner to suffer the Arsenal injury curse? There could be another explanation, of course, but perhaps Holding just moved a step closer to a place in the Arsenal first team…