When Arsene Wenger signed the young English defender Rob Holding for Arsenal in the summer it was not exactly met with joyous acclaim from the Arsenal fan base around the world, partly because not many of us had heard of him and partly because he was coming to north London off the back of a dreadful campaign which saw Bolton Wanderers relegated from the second tier of English football.
The fact that Arsenal were in need of more options at the back was clear and even though us Gonners were much happier when the boss spent big money to bring the German international Shkodran Mustafi in from Valencia, I think we have come to appreciate more the wisdom of Wenger in signing Holding for very little money.
It allowed us to send Calum Chambers out to gain more playing experience while giving us a versatile player who can do a job and learn from his more experienced and well known teammates. He does need some game time though and today’s FA cup clash with lower league Preston was always going to be the sort of game for him.
I thought he might come in at right back in place of Hector Bellerin but judging by what the boss said about him in an Arsenal.com report it is clear that Wenger sees his future in the centre of defence.
The Frenchman said, “I rate him highly. I think he’s learning his job at the moment at the top level and overall I think he has done extremely well. I believe that he has a bright future at this club.
“People say often, ‘Is he to go out on loan or not?’ I think it’s too early for him to go out on loan. I think it’s very interesting for him to see how people behave, how Premier League top teams work.
“He has improved the speed of his game and the speed of his understanding of the game. As well his aggression level has gone up and he knows that you cannot lose a decisive fight at that level. He develops as well by being in touch with players like Koscielny, like Mustafi, like Gabriel, Mertesacker – all experienced centre backs. They teach him as well.”
With Koscielny getting a rest the question is being asked who will Holding partner in the back four and I think it has to be Mustafi, because Wenger can also play Gabriel at right back. The young Gunner will then have two experienced international defenders on either side of him and that has got to be great for his confidence and his learning curve.