The FA Cup has been our go-to competition for a number of years under Wenger’s stewardship and with the cracking win over Man City at the weekend we’re now into our 3rd FA Cup Final in 4 years. Something we all should be very thankful for.
One of the shining lights was our defensive performance, albeit riding our luck in the first half, and key to the performance of the back three was a certain young Rob Holding who continues to impress performance after performance. Injury to Mustafi & a switch to a back three has required Wenger to throw Holding into the starting XI over the last couple of games and he’s exceeded expectations. The 20 year old has shown consistency and composure beyond his years and has taken his opportunity like a duck to water.
Rob Holding vs Man City
77% passing accuracy
2 aerial duels won
From the stats above (and watching the game of course) it was a really solid performance and it’s interesting to see he completed 4 take-ons in the match showing the desire and confidence to drive forward when the opportunity arises. By his own admission in speaking to Arsenal Player after the game he states how ‘Koscielny makes it easy’ for him to play in the role of left sided centre back knowing that a player of Laurent’s calibre is mopping up behind. What’s also interesting is how our switch to a back 3 has also seemingly brought out the best in Gabriel – could it be that sharing the collective, defensive responsibility with an additional centre back has given our defenders more confidence both on and off the ball. If so, long may it continue. It’s nice to see Wenger still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Holding was a fairly understated signing when he joined for around £2.5m from Bolton in the summer of 2016, yet he was thrown into the firing line in our opening game of the season against Liverpool. A disappointing 4-3 loss followed but despite the fact we conceded 4 goals Holding showed signs of the promise that attracted Arsenal into signing him. £35m was then splashed on Mustafi and Holding’s time in the first XI was cut short yet this has no doubt been a positive thing until now.
This has allowed him to become acclimitised to the life of a Premier League footballer at one of the world’s greatest clubs, as a young lad moving away from home the work and preparation behind the scenes has no doubt been invaluable. All of which has prepared him better to start our last two games and put in two quality displays.
It’s easy to get carried away as a football fan, already you can scour the media and see references to ‘the next Tony Adams’, ‘future Arsenal captain’ and how ‘he deserves to be played ahead of flop Mustafi’ yet we & Wenger must also show caution as and where it’s required. No doubt Wenger is happy to place his trust in the youngster as he has recently with Holding passing with flying colours; but with an incredibly important domestic run-in as well as a cup final to prepare for Wenger must seriously consider how often to use Holding over the likes of Gabriel & Mustafi.
Part of me feels he deserves to retain his place in the starting XI given how he’s performed in the last 2 games yet another part of me will always worry if it’s too much too soon. Granted he has shown himself more than capable and I’m excited at the future that may lie ahead of him. With Chambers proving a solid central defender in a struggling Middlesborough side & Holding impressing on one of the biggest stages of all at Wembley – it’s hard not to hope than these two could form a long-term partnership at the heart of our defence.
We should be conscious not to expect too much too soon from young Rob Holding, but I for one am hoping he’ll prove an Arsenal hero in time.