Arsenal deployed Rob Holding alongside Laurent Koscielny against Leicester City and his elevation above Calum Chambers proves he is a far superior player.
Heading into the start of the season, amid an injury crisis due to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista’s respective issues in the preseason and Laurent Koscielny’s fatigue from his international duties earlier in the summer, Arsenal were looking somewhat short of convincing options at centre-half.
The two protagonists were Calum Chambers, a man who has long been seen as the epitome of all that is wrong with Wenger’s philosophy in the transfer window due to the insistence to not improve upon promising, but ultimately not ready, youngsters, and Rob Holding, the latest Wenger prodigy who had recently been signed from Bolton Wanderers and is destined to fulfill Chambers’ role as the fallen star.
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Many saw Chambers as the more accomplished of the two. Having already had two seasons at the Emirates under Wenger’s tutelage, it was expected that, amid such injury issues to a multitude of first team players, Chambers would step up into the vacated position and take the lead as the more experienced centre-half in the opening match and then proceed to be Laurent Koscielny’s partner afterwards.
What has unfolded, though, has been very different. Holding came in with Chambers against Liverpool, and while neither shone, Chambers struggled greatly with the fluid movement of the Liverpool attackers while Holding, who was not without fault, flashed more experience and a better reading of the game, despite his younger age.
His Player of the Season year with Bolton stood Holding in good stead coming into the club. Playing regularly in a league as tough as the Championship has clearly sharpened Holding’s play. He is physical, strong in the air but also fully aware of players’ movement around him, something that Chambers struggles with greatly.
Ultimately, while Chambers has played at a higher level, it is the increased playing time that Holding has enjoyed, even in the lower leagues, that has brought him such initial success in North London. Wenger honoured such an immediate impact by handing Holding the start alongside Koscielny on Saturday against Leicester, and the 20-year-old only looked more assured.
It is dark times for Chambers when a fellow young defender can come in and surpass him in the squad within a couple of games. However, that is exactly what has unfolded in recent weeks, and Holding deserves such an elevation. He is, at this moment in time, a far superior player to Chambers.