A tribute to Rob Holding on leaving Arsenal after 8 years loyal service

Rob Holding’s transfer to Crystal Palace was one of those deals to materialize in the last few hours of the English transfer window.

It didn’t dominate the sports news on Friday instead confirmed after the 11pm deadline.

It surprised few, as it was clear the 27-year-old had reached that point of ‘when and not if’ he would leave Arsenal, it was just a case of where was his next destination.

In truth the defender has fought against this reality for a couple of years, preferring to be a squad player at the highest level rather than playing every week for a less high-profile club.

After 8 years in North London though I just feel our current longest serving player deserved a bit more acknowledgement for his contribution towards us.

Put it this way, in our entire history we have lifted 14 FA Cups. Rob Holding played in two of those finals, with man of the match level performances.

No one can ever take away those medals away from him.

As Arsene Wenger pointed out,

‘Unfortunately, no one speaks about the performance of Rob Holding. You should be happy; he is English and 20 years old. I am sorry he didn’t cost £55 million, so he can’t be good.”

In perhaps Mr Wenger’s final time in spotting a gem, he brought the centreback for 2 million from Bolton.

Just think about that ……8 years’ service and two FA Cups for just 2 million pounds.

He leaves for 4 million nearly a decade later so he’s more than paid back the fee.

There were moments when I believed (and still do) that the older Holding gets, the better he will become.

Hearing that Arteta’s strengths at the Etihad was his 1-1 coaching, I felt the more time the two spent in training, the better the Spaniard could make him.

Anyone who recalls the 2017 Cup Final will remember that a 21-year-old was essentially thrown in at the deep end.

Our form had been so bad (so bad we would fail to make the top 4 for the first time under his reign) Mr Wenger made an unprecedented step of switching to a back three.

Suddenly Holding, who the season before had been playing in League One was asked to play every week in the Prem for a squad who were devoid of all confidence.

We won our final 6 league matches that Holding played.

A week before our date at Wembley a Koscielney red card and Mustafi and Gabriel injury forced Mr Wenger to field a back three of Monreal, BFG (only start of that campaign) and a rookie in Holding.

90 minutes later as the Ox said, ‘He (Holding) doesn’t know what he’s just done.’

I remember in Unai Emery’s first season I vividly recall the turning point at Old Trafford being an injury to Holding, breaking up his partnership with Mustafi which had been impressive.

That perhaps was the closest Holding got to being a consistent part of our first team.

He lifted a second FA Cup in three years again against Chelsea, again in a back 5, again when we were underdogs.

You could argue that Holdings two best displays of his career were the two biggest he’s played in.

That tells you the character of the man.

It’s not a coincidence on those two occasions that the opposition were allowed to have the majority of possession.

That plays to Holdings strengths, when he’s allowed to purely defend, get his head to the ball, time tackles, block shots, etc.

That would explain why he’s more comfortable in a back 3 / not 2.

Unfortunately, the games moved to a point where a defender can’t just be good at defending.

Arteta wants his defences to build from the back, to take the ball off their keeper, to be comfortable to be being pressed, etc.

That makes Holding’s style of defending old school.

There is zero disgrace at not quite being at the level needed to remain at the Emirates. Remember we are told the standards we are aiming to replicate is Manchester City!

That’s why I think he will be perfect at Selhurst Park. Roy Hodgson will allow him to do what he does best, defend.

He will play for a team who at times will need him just to defend and not to worry about being good on the ball or spotting a pass.

In a position where they say you don’t hit your peak till your past 30, don’t he shock if holding still gets better.

In an era where I think standards within our fanbase has dropped, it’s worth pointing out a lot of Holding’s peers get celebrated a lot more and they haven’t won two FA Cups for the club.

Once a Gooner always a Gooners, thank you Holding.



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  1. I remember he played in the cup final with Per Metsacker and was outstanding.
    Wish him well at Palace with the exception when Palace come to The Emirates.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. Arguably the best pound-for-pound value signing we’ve made in recent years. One of my favourite moments of the 2017 Final was when he turned to Diego Costa, grinned and clearly mouthed ‘I’m in your head!’ Don’t think I’ve ever seen a player smile so much on the pitch in recent years. Plus his name is an anagram of Old Big Horn. What more can you ask for? Good luck to you, mate.

  3. I agree with the analysis. I think Holding was a good backup for Saliba in our inverted-fullback tactic, but we can’t expect him to become as skilled as Saliba, Magalhaes and White

    I believe his extremely low sale price was a token of appreciation from Arsenal, because he never caused any problem, was mostly available, was dependable and was bought with a very low price too

    I just hope he will never score against us

    1. Wish you well Holding, think its the perfect fit still cutting your teeth in the Capital but under the tutelage of Roy Hodgson, your arial abilities will help Palace to keep clean sheet against the Citizens and others.

  4. Great article Dan – I love the way you appreciate our players, no matter what level they gace achieved at our club.
    I believe that the pairing of Merts and Holding was one of the last of Arsene’s brilliant decisions and Holding had Costa in his pocket 99% of the game.

    I see Holding as part of the brickwork that helps build a team, much like Elneny and I’m sure he will be a success at Palace – worth much more than £4 million by the way.

  5. Not the best player but has been a background player for years and been useful as that. Palace have got a good servant and good luck to him.

  6. I will never forget Holding’s performance alongside Per in that FA Cup final. When the lineups came out,most people were convinced we would lose. Per had not played throughout the season and Holding was not rated by many. What a performance that was against Costa who was one of the best strikers at the time. He has been a diligent player with a good attitude. I wish him the best at Palace.

  7. His value now according to Transfer market is 8M. Where are those who said we couldn’t get more than 4M for him if we tried?

    @David @HD @GAI and co..

  8. Excellent synopsis Dan of a player Rob Holding, who was a consummate professional during his time at Arsenal. Crystal Palace and Roy Hodgson (who will develop him further) have got a CB bargain in today’s transfer market.

  9. My apologies Reggie for getting it wrong with Dalot for the Jesus goal.I need to visit “specsavers” for sure.With regard to Holding I have always liked the guy.A throwback to the days when centre halves were asked to defend first and foremost.Time has moved on and more is expected of centre backs these days.I hope he does well at a Club which still seems to have some community spirit about it.

  10. That’s after he signed for palace mate which will increase or decrease based on his performance as his spell kicks on and besides, transfer markets valuations has nothing to do with a clubs’ selling price at all.

      1. He’s valued at £8,000,000 now, before he’s even kicked a ball for Palace.
        Agree that it’s the clubs valuation of the player that counts… but of course, they need someone to agree with that valuation and Palace knew they were getting a bargain

    1. Tell that to the cos who were all about how we have the second most valuable squad on paper but we can’t ship any out.

      Moving goalposts is a cowardly and lack of self respect thing to do in my opinion.

  11. Goodluck Rob, great personality who will surely be a top player for sides like palace.wished he went to their bitter rivals Brighton who got European football and better project.all the best though, a warm welcome awaits him when he and his new mates come visiting later this season.once a Gunner, always a Gunner.

  12. Good luck Rob Holding, never let us down, always played with a smile on his face and like Elneny, an able back up to our first team. Do well with Palace 👏.

  13. Rob Holding was that baby face boy that pointed a shotgun at that unstoppable Diego Costa in the FA Cup final and got away with it. He always delivered when the club needed him the most. Unfortunately, the game had progressed beyond his skill set. I’m glad that his former captain in Arteta treated him fairly and respectfully as his fellow players in the squad. I wished he could stay but all footballers got expiry date. I wish Rob Holding all the best.

  14. I want to be completely upfront on the subject of players leaving us at our own clubs request, specifically when such a player has been a lesser light like Holding.

    I find it touching that so many have the inate goodness to wish him well as he ;leaves. He is far from alone in receiving countless goodwill messages and al lthat is fine. It is HOW we humans SHOULD BEHAVE.

    And now I am going to eat some humble pie and admit , that though I wish Holding all the best for a fruitful future, REALLY I am just very GLAD he has gone.

    You see my only REAL concern as an Arsenal FC supporter, is for the club and squad itself and to those who play most often in our team.
    And way down the line , even hardly at all, do I consider those who have left, esp when they were always lesser lights, despite being,in Holdings case, a gret club man, an out and out trier and a top all round bloke.

    But MY concern, is now and ALWAYS HAS BEEN, for the club and hardly much at all for the leaving player.

    Of course our great and true legends retain my huge admiration naturally, but despite praising Holdings character, I FREELY ADMIT only joy at his leaving, as it strengthens us, as he can NEVER again play in our team and THAT, to me, is a huge plus.

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