I love Rob Holding.
In the modern era of footballers, he is a bit of a throw back.
A no nonsense defender not concerned with how he looks or chasing fame and celebrity. He turns up, does his job and goes home.
has not been groomed for stardom from a young age. Just a working class normal lad who happens to be good at football.
It is so hard to connect with most footballers these days but Holding was one that was easy to like. If felt like he was me or you. Just better at football.
Holding is an underrated player who was integral to us winning the FA Cup in 2016/17 and 2019/20. I do not think his efforts in both of those victories should be underestimated. He does not have a couple of medals in his cabinet due to being someone who sat on the bench and never contributed. He deserves those medals.
So despite my love in with the balding Holding, I would also not be too upset to see him leave.
For everything to like about Holding, he does not quite have it to be a top 4 footballer. And that is what Arsenal need right now.
His lack of pace sees him getting caught out when going wide to cover Hector Bellerin, and often means Arsenal have to sit deeper than Mikel Arteta perhaps wants to.
Holding is capable of some immense performances, but he is also liable to many lapses of judgement throughout the season.
Playing for a mid-table team, his immense performances will be more important than his lapses of judgement. But if you are chasing Champions League football, you need defenders who make very few mistakes.
Arsenal have spent £50million on Ben White this summer.
White is quicker than Holding, better positionally and a superior passer. Everything that Arteta wants.
There is a reason why White and not Holding went to the Euro’s this summer.
Holding is the level below White. He would play second fiddle to his fellow Englishman.
Holding has a desire to make the England squad for a major international tournament.
In a recent interview he said:
“When the squads were being announced, I had my eye on it. You never know, so I was looking. It didn’t happen for me this time but that’s not going to deter me or make me feel it’s never going to.”
This summers tournament would have been Holding’s best chance of making an England squad.
With 30 Premier League appearances to his name in 2020/21, 28 starts, he will unlikely never play more football for Arsenal than he did last season.
Playing second fiddle to White will see his game time dramatically reduced and almost guarantee he does not make England’s next World Cup squad.
He would have seen the likes of Conor Coady, White and Tyrone Mings make Gareth Southgate’s squad despite playing for lesser clubs.
Holding will know his best chance of going to Qatar would be to move away from Arsenal and play every league game for the next 18 months .
At 25-years-old, a move away for Arsenal is the only way he will get week in, week out football.
The move would also suit Arsenal.
We currently have too many players; and whilst we have got rid of David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis from last season, we still have one too many defenders.
With no European football, we do not need to carry 5 centre backs and 3 right backs. One must go.
The options to leave would be either Cedric Soares, Calum Chambers or Holding.
If Cedric leaves, Chambers then becomes 2nd choice right back to Hector Bellerin (or his replacement). If Holding leaves, Chambers becomes 4th choice centre back as cover for Ben White. If it is Chambers who goes, Cedric and Holding maintain their positions.
But you can only sell players if there is a buyer.
There will not be too many clubs in for Cedric – who turns 30 at the end of this month. So that gives you a choice between keeping Chambers or Holding.
Taking into account everything that has been said so far, Chambers might be the better option as understudy for White.
Chambers is closer in style of football to White.
He is a good passer of the ball and quicker than Holding.
That means if White is injured, Chambers would probably be the better man to bring in. Playing Chambers would mean we would not have to change our defensive tactics. We would not need the team to drop 10 yards deeper to cover Holding’s lack of pace.
Chambers is a more like for like replacement for White than Holding is.
He is also more versatile – capable of covering right back in an emergency and he could also play a role as 5th choice central midfielder.
When it comes to reducing our centre backs, we also have to look forward 12 months to when William Saliba returns.
If Saliba has a good season in France and continues to develop his game, he will be back in the Arsenal squad next season.
That will leave Arsenal with 6 centre backs once more.
It makes a lot of sense for Arsenal to shed one centre back this summer and then another next – especially as we do not have European football.
Next summer we sell which of Holding or Chambers is still at the club; or Saliba depending on the development of latter.
So if we get an offer for Holding (or Chambers) in the region of £20million this summer, we would be crazy to turn it down as their value will only likely diminish next summer with a year less playing.
The two obvious clubs that could target Holding are Newcastle and Leicester City.
Both sides play with deep defences so Holding would suit their style of play.
Leicester will be in the market for a new centre back following Wesley Fofana’s sickening pre-season injury.
Holding would be an easy deal for them to get done – and Arsenal could potentially use him as part of a deal for James Maddison.
Newcastle are the ones he has been most heavily linked with overnight.
It is actually funny looking at Newcastle Twitter who are slating the deal. Holding would become their best centre back.
Many are saying “if he is not good enough for Arsenal he is not good enough for Newcastle”. This the same fan base who are celebrating signing Joe Willock like it is Lionel Messi.
It is perhaps a level of delusion that Newcastle fans have always had.
They finished 12th last season. And 13th the two previous seasons. They are a relegation battling side, not a European chasing.
We have also seen it with Aston Villa. Them thinking that they are “on par” with Arsenal. Ignoring that our 8th place finish is seen as a failure for us. It would be a huge success for them.
A mid-table side – the likes of Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Leeds United – is exactly the level Holding should be playing at.
Teams like Newcastle should be targeting top sides fringe players.
Not being at the level Arsenal require moving forward does not mean he is not the level that would improve Newcastle.
Like Willock, I would wish Holding all the luck if he moves on.
Rob Holding leaving will be good for the player who has England ambitions, good for Arsenal who would add £20million or so into the coffers and good for whoever he joins who would be getting a solid Premier League centre back. A good deal for all parties.
Have a good Tuesday.