Rob Holding remains one of the strangest and most curious cases at The Emirates. There are a lot of signs that the defender is destined to stay at Arsenal for a long time, without much discernible proof.
In May this year, the former Bolton man signed a new long-term contract at the club, keeping him in north London until 2020.
Then, new manager Unai Emery decided to keep the 23-year-old centre back at the club rather than loaning him elsewhere in the Premier League. He did so with Callum Chambers, which shows that he is not averse to doing such things.
These are all suggestions that Holding is highly regarded by The Gunners. However, sometimes that doesn’t come across on the pitch. He made just nine starts in the Premier League last season, and the same number the season before. He was primarily used as an option in the Europa League by Arsène Wenger last season, which is sometimes a platform to play the fringe players.
This season things look much the same despite the new manager. Holding has just started one Premier League game so far, and that only came due to an injury Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Before the injury he was fairly anonymous for the club, and may well return to the bench now the Greek is back. This is a reflection of how he is regarded by the Spanish boss at the club, as he is clearly behind Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis in the pecking order.
The Arsenal defence has been subject to criticism for years; mocked for being pushovers and weak. Holding (valued at £6.3m on Transfermarkt.co.uk) can be the key to solving this problem and silencing some critics of the club. He is solid and dependable and would be a far cry from some of the centre backs The Gunners have fielded over the years.
However, he is quite clearly still not an established player in the Premier League, and that should worry some fans. At the age of 23, he is past the stage of being an up and comer. There are plenty of players younger than him in the Premier League playing in his position. Age is no longer an excuse. He is slowly losing the tag of being a peripheral player, but he must shake that very quickly.
This season may well be a make or break one for the player. If by this time next year he has still not made a name for himself as a regular in the Arsenal squad, he probably never will. He would be 24 by then, and his time at The Emirates may be numbered. This must be the season for him.
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