When Arsenal’s stopper William Saliba dropped out in March, it was clear that he would be hard to replace fully. Positive references go to Rob Holding after two rounds, but they were home confrontations with Crystal Palace and Leeds. The real test will come at the weekend on Liverpool soil.
There has been a very good atmosphere at Arsenal since the start of the season. A young squad with a young coach has surprisingly withstood all the crises so far and has an eight-point lead at the top of the table. Second Manchester City played one round less.
Changes at stopper are risky
The Gunners have had a key player drop out due to injury several times this season. Striker Gabriel Jesus has been decently replaced by Leandro Trossard and Eddie Nketiah, while Thomas Partey’s brief dropout was solved by winter signing Jorginho.
Reaching into the midfield is a different matter altogether. They say the defence doesn’t change. And in Rob Holding’s case, that’s doubly true. While he’s a good option for the end when you need to defend a one-goal lead, he’s not reliable from the opening minute.
Fans don’t trust Holding
Last time the English stopper cost Arsenal the Champions League. When Ben White was injured last season, Holding was filling in and not keeping up with the pace. In a crucial game against Tottenham (0::3), he got sent off and the city rivals took fourth place.
This is partly why a discussion was sparked under a post on the popular Arsenal news Nigeria Facebook page. The text of Nigeria’s biggest club fanpage reported that Jorginho, Nketiah or Reiss Nelson made their substitute appearances this year.
Yet, fans in the comments agreed that they had no confidence in Holding. “I’m really nervous about Holding defending Nunez, Jota or Gakpa. They are all much faster and can cause him problems. I would prefer to move White to the middle and use Tierney and Zinchenko on the flanks,” Mike mentioned in the most liked comment.
And his rebuilding of the defence would indeed make sense, but Mikel Arteta is not in an ideal relationship with Kieran Tierney right now. The mainstay of recent years is finding it hard to carry the role of substitute and the young coach is not going to risk a bad atmosphere on the pitch by deploying him.
Arsenal supporters are mainly worried about the mental side of Holding’s performance. “I always remember how he killed the Tottenham game last year. He was provoked, he took revenge, which resulted in a sending off,” Sean recalled the fateful moment. This is something the English stopper really needs to avoid if he wants to score points with his teammates at Anfield.
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