Arsenal’s Rob Holding is in the process of returning to action after recovering from an ACL tear. But are some fans going a little far in their hopes for his return?
Arsenal have some centre-back problems. In fact, they have had centre-back problems for quite a while — you could make a very fair argument that the last strong partnership was Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell in the mid-2000s.
This season, those problems are worse than normal. After Laurent Koscielny threw his toys out the pram and Arsenal decided to spend £27 million on a player who will not be with them until next season, the options at the position for Unai Emery are hardly the most convincing.
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As such, many have heralded the impending return of Rob Holding as some sort of saviour to a hapless Gunners defence. For what it is worth, Emery gave this response when being asked about Holding and his availability prior to last Sunday’s North London Derby:
“Rob Holding is training with us, playing with the under-23s but he is not 100 per cent to play on Sunday with us. We are working with him one way, playing with the under-23s and training with us, and also testing his performance each day and with each match with the under-23s. We think now he is getting better, he can play one match but not with the intensity we want on Sunday, for example.”
Holding, then, is on his way back to the first team.
But to think that Holding will slide straight back into the starting XI and be the unquestioned starter and anchor for the remainder of the season is a little naive, and not just because of the natural difficulties that come with a recovery from a year-long injury like an ACL tear.
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Holding showed terrific promise in the two months he did play under Unai Emery last season, but is he of unquestioned top-level Premier League quality? No. In fact, while there have been periods of very positive form that suggest he is capable of reaching that level, there have also been periods in which is lack of athleticism has been exposed, his confidence has seaped into complacency, and he has struggled with combined movements off the ball.
The 23-year-old is a good defender. He has tools to build on and, if he can stay fit, he has the ability to be starter for the club for many years. But in the present, is he any better than Sokratis or David Luiz, or, dare I say it, even Calum Chambers? I am not so sure.
So let’s just slow down on Holding. Let’s not anoint him the saviour of the defence just yet. He is a bright player with a bright future, but stating anything more than that is a little naive right now.