From relegation with Bolton Wanderers to winning the FA Cup with Arsenal, Rob Holding has come a long way.

  • Young defender reflects on breakthrough year
  • Praises “quality player” Per Mertesacker
  • Arsene Wenger sorry Holding didn’t cost £50m

The centre back took a moment to reflect on where he was this time last year.

“When we were celebrating at the end, I just sat down and thought, ‘Last year I was devastated at Derby when I got relegated with Bolton’. To go from that to winning the FA Cup in the space of a year is crazy,” he said.

“I’m lost for words really. When the final whistle went, it was a crazy feeling. I never thought I’d experience it but we got the job done. Hopefully there’s more to come.”

Holding arrived at Arsenal for just £2.5 million last summer and spent a good chunk of the season sitting on the sidelines.

A switch of formation and injuries presented him the opportunity to play against Middlesbrough back in April, one he has taken with both hands. A string of impressive performances culminated with a successful marking job on Diego Costa.

“If he gets one in 90 minutes, I’ve done my job,” he added.

“They’re a strong team as we’ve seen over the season and they’ve won a lot of games in the Premier League. We knew it would be a tough game but we managed to keep our high intensity, pressed them high and didn’t let them play.”

The defender has endeared himself to the Arsenal support with his tough play. His refusal to be bullied by Costa was one of the high points of the final.

He also had special praise for one of his defensive partners on the day, Per Mertesacker.

“It’s the first time Per and I have played with each other apart from in training,” Rob said.

“A guy like Per has won the World Cup so he’s going to make it comfortable for me as well. He’s a quality player.”

Hopefully, he’ll continue to learn and progress.

Who knows, maybe one day he really will be better than Cannavaro…