Rob Holding played 90 minutes for the u23s on Friday night, for the first time since last December’s injury, taking the final major step in his first-team comeback.
Holding has been building up his fitness with the u23s in recent weeks. He played a half in their 6-1 victory over Watford in pre-season, before completing around 63 minutes last week on Monday against Blackburn.
The last step was to get a full 90 minutes under his belt, and the centre-back did so against Everton on Friday.
Having won the Premier League 2 last season, Everton were always likely to prove tough opposition for Arsenal’s u23s. Despite the Gunners taking an early lead through Tyreece John-Jules’ magical flick, Anthony Gordon quickly made it 1-1 after latching onto a ball over the top.
Holding has to take his share of the blame for the goal, as it was too easy for Gordon to run off the Arsenal defence. However, after that, the centre-back really grew into the game and put in a very good performance.
Holding’s long and short passing was very accurate, and he won the vast majority of his individual duels on the ground and in the air. The defender even went close to scoring with a header after a corner, but it was cleared off the line.
Arsenal got back into the lead in the first half, but a goalkeeping error saw them throw it away again with seven minutes of the match to go.
In the 90th minute, with Arsenal pushing for a winner, Holding made an interception and skipped over a challenge before racing over to keep the ball in play. There were certainly no signs that he was off the pace, even that late on in the match.
Unfortunately, Arsenal had to settle for the 2-2 draw, which lifted them up one place in the table thanks to a Spurs defeat to Derby County.
For Holding individually, it was another encouraging step forward. Arsenal are unlikely to throw him in against Spurs in their only other game before the international break, but afterwards, he should be available.
Most likely, Arsenal will use the Europa League group stage to reintroduce the defender, with the first match on September 19th, though it will depend on who they draw next Friday.