Tag Archives: rob holding

Young defenders benefit from Arsenal’s formation switch

Against West Ham on Tuesday, Arsenal stuck with the 4 at the back system that has seen them now keep 3 clean sheets on the spin.

The move, which happened before the bore draw against West Ham in the league and was kept for the 1-0 win over Newcastle, was also rolled out to the cup team for the 1-0 win over West Ham.

Whilst the move does seem to have shored us up at the back, it is also a huge positive for rob Holding and Calum Chambers.

The move to 3 at the back never really suited the English pair.

Despite the theory being that 3 at the back would mean more of a chance for central defenders to get a game, Nacho Monreal was played on the left hand side. This meant that the natural centre backs – Koscileny, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Chambers & Holding – were still fighting for just one place.

Chambers would have been a natural on the right hand side of the 3, but struggled for game time. And when he did play in the cup team, he often found himself at wing back.

Meanwhile, Rob Holding found himself out of position.

Holding is a dominating figure who should have been played in the middle of the 3, but when playing in the first team, he often found himself on the left or right. Then in the cup team, Mertesacker was the middle man so he found himself on the left of the 3. An unnatural position.

Against West Ham in the League Cup, Arsenal played Chambers and Holding as a defensive two – and they excelled.

We were not up against a West Ham reserve team. Many of the players featured the week before. Chambers and Holding had the likes of Javier Hernandez, Andrew Ayew and, for 35 minutes, Andy Carroll to deal with. And they did so brilliantly.

Restricting West Ham to no shots on target, and no corners, highlights the defensive masterclass that Holding and Chambers put on.

They were helped by having Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny ahead of them. Two players who are more defensive than attacking. It was a good all round defensive performance.

Chambers, who has struggled to get a chance and spent last season on loan to Middlesbrough, put in a man of the match performance which showed he is ready to stop up.

Against Liverpool, it will be interesting to see whether Arsene Wenger sticks with Nacho Monreal at centre back, or puts Holding or Chambers in next to Koscielny.

What is for certain is both still have a future at the club.

Both players are still just 22 and, with Mertesacker retiring in the summer, will have an opportunity to put themselves forward as (at a minimum) second choice centre backs for the 2018/19 season.

I would expect us to go big in the summer for a new centre back. I also would not be surprised if either Mustafi or Koscileny leave us. This will leave Holding and Chambers as 3rd and 4th choice centre backs. I am comfortable with that.

The return to 4 at the back is a positive for the pair.



Arsenal set for defensive crisis against Stoke?

Against Leicester City, Arsenal showed a weakness against the high ball into the box. A weakness which Leicester City exploited ruthlessly with all 3 of their goals coming from crosses into the box.

In Arsenal’s defence, they were playing two left backs and a 21 year old Rob holding at centre back. But it is not really a defence, in both ways.

Leicester continually played balls down the channel between Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin, which dragged the only centre back out of position. This left space in the middle for Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki to attack.

Arsenal were also poor at corners. They lacked leaders at the back, someone to take control of the situation and get his head on it. So often this man is Olivier Giroud, but with him playing second fiddle to Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal looked short at the back. Literally.

Up next is Stoke City. And there are reasons to worry.

Stoke City have one of the narrowest pitches in the league and have destroyed Arsenal before using the simple game plan of swing as many balls into the box as possible. If over the next few days Arsenal do not develop a game plan to deal with the high ball, the side will once more struggle.

Laurent Koscielny is still out suspended. Stoke City will be the third game after the silly sending off on the last day of last season which caused him to miss the cup final.

Also missing from the game against Leicester was club captain Per Mertesacker.

Having been involved in a gruesome clash with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill at the Community Shield, his wound had not sufficiently repaired itself in time for the victory over Leicester.

The Arsenal website does not have him listed as injured, but they do list Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey as out. My bet is the lad who updates the website is currently face down in a gutter in Magaluf.

Mertesacker’s height in the middle of the park would be key against a side like Stoke City. And his organisation and leadership would see both Holding and Monreal perform better.

Shkodran Mustafi was fit enough to be on the bench against Leicester. Another weeks training under his belt and he should be fit to start against Stoke City. Gabriel is 100% out – injured and set to be sold.

Taking into account the threat faced by Stoke City, if Mustafi and Mertesacker as fully fit, it would be worthwhile playing both alongside Rob Holding. It would even be worth starting Olivier Giroud upfront.

If Arsenal do start with the same defence as they used against Leicester, Arsenal’s travelling fans could be in for another tough day in the grim city.



Arsenal on international duty

Has anyone actually bothered following the international tournaments that have been going on in the last few weeks?

We have had the Confederations Cup in Russia and the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Poland bubbling on nicely in the last couple of weeks. And now we are at the business end of both competitions.

I have kind of drifted in and out of both competitions. With the Lions Tour, some cricket and Love Island, my TV time has been fairly filled. But I have tried to catch a bit of Chile and a bit of England U21s.

Both Chile (in the Confederations Cup) and England (in the U21s) have made their respective semi finals. England play tonight, Chile tomorrow night.

In the U21 tournament, England are 3rd favourites to win.

It has been a bit of a mixed ability tournament. The majority of German’s U21 team – England’s opponents tonight – are in Russia playing for the 1st team, as Joachim Lowe decided to play a development team and rest the likes of Mesut Ozil and Manuel Neuer.

Likewise the England side is certainly not our strongest set of U21 players as the likes of Raheem Sterling, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Marcus Rashford on senior duty.

A stand out player for the England U21’s has been Arsenal’s Calum Chambers.

Chambers has had a rough couple of years since his big money move to Arsenal, but it is easy to forget that he is still just 22. He has started every game for England, ahead of Arsenal’s FA Cup hero Rob Holding.

Before this summer, Chambers would have been one of those slated to leave Arsenal. But his performances for England would have changed a lot of fans mind on him. He has been brilliant, and most noticeably very strong in the air.

The fact he has been continually picked ahead of Rob Holding is testament to his ability. Arsenal would be silly to let him leave.

As for Rob Holding, it has been a frustrating tournament for him. From the high of the FA Cup win and becoming an Arsenal regular, to struggling to get any game time for England, behind Calum Chambers and some bloke from Swansea (in fairness, Alfie Mawson has played well).

Whilst the England and German sides are certainly not the strongest they could put out, Spain have selected the best side they could, with many senior professionals stepping down to the junior level.

One such player has been Hector Bellerin.

Bellerin played 90 minutes in both the first and second game, before being rested for Spain’s 3rd group game – with Spain being guaranteed qualification. Favourites Spain face Italy in the semi finals.

Krystian Bielik would have been disappointed to be an unused substitute in all of Poland’s games.

Meanwhile over at the Confederations Cup, record breaking Alexis Sanchez started off the tournament injured, but has shown just what a key player he is for Chile as he made history and became their all time top scorer.

With the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal in the squad, there is certainly some value in Chile to beat Portugal, and even go on to win the thing.

Arsenal have more interested in the other semi-final as Germany take on Mexico. Shkodran Mustafi has played two of the 3 games for favourites Germany, where a big mistake against Chile led to club team mates Alexis Sanchez record breaking goal.

With Sanchez’s contract set to be resolved once the Confederations Cup is over, Arsenal fans will be itching for it to end at the weekend.

Plenty of football to watch this week.

Have a good one