Wenger will start Holding – not that he has much choice!
Welcome to the start of the Premier League campaign of 2016/17 and the opening round of fixtures play this weekend. Arsenal face up against strong opposition, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, at the Emirates this Sunday and will be hoping to start the season off with an impressive three points.
Going into the game, both sides have injury concerns already, however Arsenal seem slightly worse for wear with three of the club’s most recognised centre backs being unavailable due to fitness. Both Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista will be out for the long term future with respective injures, whilst first choice Laurent Koscielny will miss out due to not being fully match fit to start. It leaves just the young partnership of Calum Chmabers and new signing Rob Holding in defence and Liverpool will certainly be a tough test for the pair.
Arsenal only have three recognised options to play two spots in central defence. They are Chambers, Holding and Bielik, all of whom are massively inexperienced at the top level. Chambers has the most experience playing for Arsenal, but he is still young and so to lead the line at such an age, in such an important opening match, will certainly be a tough test. Bielik, who despite showing plenty of promise, probably won’t play but will definitely be due a spot on the bench given the lack of available players.
With all this in mind, fans have already started to name their line-ups for the opening match, with no new signings likely to meet the deadline before the first round of games kicks off. Arsene Wenger too has a big decision to make in defence and although he doesn’t have much choice, he seems to be confident that a partnership of Chambers and Holding will be strong enough to hold off the threat from Liverpool.
Wenger said: “We’ve had two unexpected injuries with Mertesacker and Gabriel, and [Laurent] Koscielny came back very late so we are in a difficult position for Sunday’s game against Liverpool. He’s [Holding] done extremely well. That’s part of the game as well, you want the spectacular players to come to the Premier League, but that means young players lose that opportunity to get a chance. Arsenal are one of the clubs who still have the guts to do that. I know it’s more glamorous to sign a £60m player than to give a chance to a young player, but in my job you have to look and focus on the quality of the player, and not just the numbers.”
Personally I am up in the air about how a partnership of Holding and Chambers will do against Liverpool, especially with the added pace of Sadio Mane, another signing from Southampton. I think they may just be able to hold on and they will need plenty of help from the more experienced full backs of Bellerin and Monreal, whilst the rest of the team will also have to be very much on song to achieve all three points. But in reality, with or without the defensive injures, Wenger should not have put the side in this situation by signing that all so important central defender that every single Arsenal fan recognises we need to strengthen this team.