Seven games in, Arsenal had the Premier League’s best defence.
Not on paper, sure, but at least in the sense of goals conceded, which made for welcome viewing after the defensive dagger was repeatedly jammed into our sorry Arsenal hearts last season.
One key member of that (note I said seven, not eight) has been Rob Holding, who having been on the brink of becoming a Newcastle player is now first-choice centre-back on the right hand side. Some turnaround that is.
Establishing himself as Gabriel Magalhaes’ main partner ahead of David Luiz, all of a sudden we’re beginning to see semblance of the Holding pre-injury. Far from recapturing such form just yet, he’s nevertheless on the right path.
If Holding’s improvement this campaign comes down to any one element, it has to derive from confidence. Even in pre-season he looked bereft of self-belief and when Newcastle came knocking, he must have felt even lower.
I don’t think Holding will ever be an elite centre-back, yet there is no doubting he can be top-class – England worthy, at least. He’s become stronger, better in one-on-one defending and smarter tactically. All positive.
While we’d all rather not bang on about Aston Villa, in this case we have to. Holding was torn to pieces by Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley, turning into a meme overnight with some peculiar dance moves.
As touched upon previously, that display must be labelled as ‘one of those’, since apart from that horror show, Holding has become a more dependable member of a much stronger back line.
With all the central defenders fit, he still gets the nod. William Saliba must be making inroads, though.
Best Moment – Old Trafford Win
Cowering behind our sofas awaiting the inevitable inclusion of Shkodran Mustafi for the trip to Old Trafford, seeing Holding’s name pop up had people questioning the legitimacy of their television broadcaster.
To all our surprise it was no blunder, with Holding forging an immaculate duo with Gabriel and setting the foundation for a memorable, hotly-anticipated victory.
The 25-year-old is proving himself to be a reliable big-game player. But we knew that already.
Rob Holding’s Arsenal Rating