Arsenal signed defender Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers back in July 2016 for a fee reported to be in the region of £2.7m. The club has been crying out for a top-class central-defender for years and although the young Englishman displayed signs of promise during a run of games last season we look into whether he has what it takes to marshall the clubs troubled back-line for years to come.
Holding’s best spell in the red and white of Arsenal came between September and December of 2018. The 24-year-old established himself as a first-choice centre-back in Unai Emery’s new-look Arsenal side but his progress was abruptly halted by a cruciate ligament rupture that would end his season. In those few months, the defender managed to achieve figures of 1.1 tackles per game, 1.2 interceptions and 3.7 clearances in the 10 Premier League games he figured in (WhoScored).
Fast-forward ten months, and after a gruelling rehabilitation process, the defender is back on the pitch. Holding is yet to start a Premier League game this season but he has now featured seven times including three games with the clubs Under 23’s.
The vast majority of Arsenal supporters expected Holding to walk straight into the first team and displace one of either Sokratis or David Luiz but for the time being, he’s had to settle for game time in the Carabao Cup and Europa League. Perhaps that’s more of a testament to where he is at in terms of match-fitness rather than his ability but only time will tell.
Can Holding become an Arsenal great?
Along with Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney, Holding is under lots of pressure to enhance the team, solve the Gunners’ defensive woes and its the type of pressure that isn’t ideal for a group of players who are all still working towards their peak conditions.
The answer to whether or not Holding can go on to become an Arsenal legend isn’t as straight forward as many would have you believe. There have certainly been signs of promise, maturity and a good understanding of the game but the reality is the former Bolton man is still relatively inexperienced at the top level.
Holding has played just 31 Premier League games since he joined Arsenal, that’s seven shy of a full season. The long-term injury he suffered last year certainly skew those figures, but the reality is only when we see the central defender stewarding the Arsenal defence over a significant period of time will we know if he’s a future legend in the making. The promise is there but legends are born out of fulfilment.