Rob Holding may not be a pivotal figure for Arsenal or England at the moment, but could he become one?
Young defender Rob Holding is beginning to feature more for Arsenal, and although he is not a pivotal figure in Arsene Wenger’s line-up at the moment, he has the potential to be a solid part of the team’s backbone in years to come. That’s if he stays with the North London club.
When Holding made a Premier League appearance on the opening day of the season in the Gunners’ exhilarating 4-3 win over 2015-16 champions Leicester City, he may have thought that his time had come to get a regular run out in the first team. On that occasion he played ahead of the 2016 summer signing Shkodran Mustafi, as well as the suspended Laurent Koscielny. The 22-year-old helped form somewhat of a makeshift defence alongside Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin, and the most recent defensive addition Sead Kolasinac.
But, after the poor defensive display which allowed the Foxes to breach the Arsenal goal on three occasions, Wenger restored Mustafi, and Holding dropped to the bench against Stoke City. The German is the strongest choice in the position, and Wenger was right to reinstate him. Unfortunately for Holding, his cause wasn’t helped much against Liverpool the next week when he was part of a backline which conceded another four goals.
Since the Anfield tie, Holding hasn’t featured for Arsenal in the league. But the former Bolton Wanderers man shouldn’t feel too dismayed. It is now clear that Wenger is keen on using the England u21 international on a more regular basis this season. Wenger seems unsure of his preferred formation and defensive setup at the moment, and that has been evident in Arsenal’s poor start to the campaign where they conceded eight goals after five games. Ahead of their home encounter against West Bromwich Albion, the Frenchman’s side were 30/1 with Paddy Power to win the league this term.
In the 2016-17 campaign, Holding only made nine appearances in the top flight, racking up a total of 810 minutes of pitch time. This should be set to increase this season as Wenger clearly believes the defender is destined for big things. He also seems to be ahead of Per Mertesacker and Calum Chambers in the pecking order. That being said, it seems unlikely that Holding can hope to impress Gareth Southgate enough this season to earn a place in his England squad for the World Cup in Russia next summer. But if he can stick at it at Arsenal and increase his showings over the next few campaigns, Holding may well be in the Three Lions manager’s thinking when it comes to the next major tournament.
With England’s defensive line far from written in stone as it was during the days of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, now is a good time for young defenders to show what they can do. Holding will be hoping for more opportunities in the seasons ahead so he can force his way into Southgate’s thinking. He certainly has the potential to be a future star for both club and country.