Rob Holding is close to returning to first-team action and will feature in an under-23 fixture tonight, according to Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
Holding has been out of action since a knee injury in the club’s 2-2 draw away to Manchester United in December 2018.
Emery spoke of Holding’s potential return and said: “I want to have very competitive players in each position, with David Luiz, with Holding when he is coming to help us, training regularly and playing minutes. He is going to play tomorrow for the Under-23s.” (Source: Football London)
Since Holding’s injury, Arsenal have experienced horrible form, especially in the Premier League. The Gunners conceded 31 goals in the remaining games in the English top-flight after the Englishman injured his knee.
Pre-season didn’t turn out to be much better as Arsenal showed more of the same defensive deficiencies. The north London giants conceded eight goals in just seven games, as a horrible mix-up between Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bernd Leno against Barcelona summed up the problems with Arsenal’s backline.
Despite his early end to the season after injury, Holding still managed to top the defensive charts for the club last season. The 23-year-old committed the third-least amount of fouls, made the fourth-most clearances, and the third-most blocks per game in Emery’s squad (via WhoScored).
However, it was Holding’s performance on the ball which the Gunners may have missed most last season. The centre-back completed the highest number of passes per game of any Arsenal defender, and the second-most of any player in the squad. His ability on the ball helped Arsenal a lot, with Emery insisting on playing out of the back.
Speaking about having to do so, former Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech told the club’s official website last year: “I have to say that I enjoy it [passing the ball out] because I played under different managers with different styles and over most of my career I was always asked to play long, so this is a pleasant change for me and it will be very useful when you want to beat a team who controls the game through possession.”
Holding’s return to fitness is a much-needed boost for the Arsenal squad. The former England youth international’s ball-playing ability and interceptions, which are both described as strengths of his (via WhoScored), can only help the Gunners improve in what will be a testing 2019/2020 season.
Arsenal fans, how badly does Emery need Holding up and running again? Let us know in the comment section below!
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