Is Arsenal’s Rob Holding Transfer U-Turn Cause for Concern?

Arsenal, Cedric Soares (Photo by PAUL CHILDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Arsenal, Cedric Soares (Photo by PAUL CHILDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Having looked on the brink of a loan departure, something has changed.

Not long ago, it appeared certain that Rob Holding was on his way to Newcastle on a season-long loan deal. A trophy-winning Community Shield performance was set to be his final Arsenal bow of the season ahead of a move up north.

Fast forward a matter of days and the circumstances have altered – as per usual in the ever-changing summer transfer market.

Now reports from the Daily Mail have emerged suggesting that Mikel Arteta has had second thoughts on that proposed deal, with the Spaniard unsure whether parting with the Englishman is such a wise idea after all. Cited as having been “impressed” with the 24-year-old’s performances of late, both in training and otherwise, the Magpies could be set to miss out.

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On the surface, that can only come across as positive. If Holding is recapturing the form he showed pre-injury, then the Arsenal faithful who’ve pinned so much hope on him becoming a mainstay in the side have reason for optimism.

That’s what has been stated, but it might be just a half-truth.

Holding put in a composed display in the Wembley win over Liverpool, but the following two matches played behind closed doors have seen the side ship in six goals. We don’t know the full extent of Holding’s involvement in those fixtures, but it doesn’t exactly ooze confidence in the defensive department. Yes, we can’t look too far into friendly fixtures such as those – which will likely have seen multiple substitutions – but perhaps the reasons behind Arteta’s change of heart are born out of worry, above than anything else.

William Saliba‘s Arsenal career is only in its infancy, and while the widespread praise he’s received is not without basis, perhaps Arteta has reason to believe he’s not ready to be thrust into weekly rigours of Premier League football. After all, he’s only 19.

Then of course there is Gabriel Magalhaes, who boasts more experience, but is an even later arrival whose grasp – or lack thereof – of the English language may make his integration a more gradual affair.

Two new central defenders who the club and its fans need to have patience with, may need more time to bed in than expected. Heading into Saturday’s curtain-raiser, David Luiz and Kieran Tierney look certainties to complete two thirds of the back three. Saliba was expected to make up the numbers, but behind the scenes he could be struggling to adapt to a new system and formation, one that will take time to fully embed into. For that reason, Arteta may be pulling the handbrake.

A caveat to the most recent murmurings is that the transfer window is still wide open. With some daunting fixtures still to come before October 6th, there may be a sense of playing it safe for now to see how the new arrivals adapt to their environments. Clashes against Fulham, West Ham, Leicester (Carabao Cup), Liverpool and Sheffield United all await prior to that date, leaving plenty of time for Arteta to pick his own brain and observe his centre-back options.

How long Newcastle are willing to wait, however, is another story. They – along with literally everyone else – would rather have their business completed in the not too distant future. Making them hang around for a phone call that may never come won’t suit Steve Bruce.

The initial plan of loaning Holding out came across as the perfect solution for all parties, yet something has evidently tweaked. Far from perfect, at least Holding has experience of the league and familiarity with his teammates.

Then again, this is the transfer market. Who knows what may make the headlines tomorrow. This mulling over period could be over in a few hours’ time. Heck, by the time you’ve read this he could be on a plane to Tyneside to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

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If he isn’t though, then maybe Arteta has seen something in training to suggest the move was a knee-jerk reaction in the first place.