Holding Is Now First Choice by Dan Smith
Smith-Rowe and Saka have rightfully been getting all the plaudits, while many will be relieved that Aubameyang got on the scoresheet twice against Newcastle.
Yet with the team keeping 5 consecutive clean sheets for the first time in over a decade it’s only correct we give a shout out to our defence.
The majority of our centre-backs have all gone through periods of criticism, so it’s only correct to equally point out when they are doing well.
It’s not at the back why we are 10th in the League in January, with our issues more in attack.
Probably the biggest improvements Arteta has made in his 13 months as manager is to organise us. Apparently, that’s textbook management, the first thing any new coach should do is fix the back 4 or 5 and build from there.
This time last year you wouldn’t have believed our squad would be able to win the FA Cup in the manner they did.
It might be taking longer than we hoped and it’s made us not exciting to watch but at least we are hard to beat.
In our current sequence of 6 games unbeaten, Rob Holding has played all 5 of the League games, in the process being rewarded with a new contract. It makes a mockery of the narrative that some gooners were trying to create earlier in the season that while Gabriel was brilliant, Holding was the weak link.
It represented a section of our fanbase. Some so desperate for us to return to our previous levels they want to convince themselves a player is the finished article based on doing very little.
Gabriel had a good debut against a poor Fulham on the opening day and was outstanding in the Carabao Cup at Liverpool, but it was premature to say he was ‘world class’, ‘signing of the season’, and all other crazy statements.
We ended up with this bizarre situation when the likes of Leicester, Burnley and Wolves were winning at the Emirates, some on social media tried to paint a picture of Gabriel being amazing while it was the three around him at fault.
I vividly remember Aston Villa comfortably beating us 3-0 at home (it could have been worse) and the likes of AFTV giving Gabriel a high score (out of 10) because it was suggested that he was the centre back trying to do a job of two people. It’s almost impossible to make your worst start to the season since the Premiership began and yet claim that one defender has been outstanding while his partner has been poor.
As regular readers will testify, I have always been a fan of Holding. At the age of 25 he’s not even in his prime, especially in a position where players tend not to be at their best until they reach their thirties.
Mikel Arteta had a reputation at Man City of coaching talent on a 1-to-1 basis and getting the very best out of them, so I have always looked at Holding as a player our manager could improve, especially with his ability on the ball. I noticed since last year how he’s been working on his upper body and just by his body language you can tell he’s developed into a leader.
His performance on Monday night was ironic given that reports strongly suggested he nearly joined Newcastle on loan in the summer, even going as far as arranging a flat in the City.
I think the deal was arranged due to the number of centre backs we have, not because he doesn’t have a future in North London.
I believe the original idea was for Holding to get regular football in the North East for a year, then return, at which point the likes of Mustafi, Luiz and Sokratis (who’s not submitted to play anyway) will be free agents, freeing up room in the squad.
The media has suggested it was only injuries that made our manager step in and block the move. Now Holding is one of the first names on our team sheet.
Gabriel is fit enough to play but was only on the bench yesterday. I have read many believing he and Mari should be our first-choice partnership.
If something is not broken, why fix it?
Holding and Luiz have earnt the right to start till they drop it. They have the baton and deserve to run with it until they have dropped it.
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