“I’m sorry he didn’t cost £55 million.”
So the comment goes from Arsene Wenger upon signing unheralded English defender Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers.
Since then, Bobby Holding’s stock has risen and it is down to the defender’s incredible work ethic. He has earned everything that comes to him – and we have a defender on our hands who is capable of much more than he gets credit for.
Think of his humble beginnings. A solid season with Bolton alerted Arsenal to his presence and a low fee was arranged for his transfer. Bolton had been relegated and a fire sale was taking place and Arsenal took full advantage.
In his first season, Holding flitted in and out of the side but toward the tail end of the season, he made the starting role his own ahead of far more illustrious defending competition. Holding showed that he was more than ready for it though, winning all of the games he started in during that period.
Holding has suffered serious injury, saw off competition for his spot and has lifted silverware too. His performance alongside Per Mertesacker – in what is coined the Per Mertesacker final – in our 2017 FA Cup Final win over Chelsea was flawless and his mature display facing off against Diego Costa will live long in the memory.
Most thought that this season would be the one where Holding was squeezed out. With Pablo Mari, William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes signed in the last year to add to our defensive ranks, it seemed as though Holding was on his way toward the exit door. But Holding has once again confounded the critics and has now kept three clean sheets from four games alongside Gabriel Magalhaes and winning all four of those games.
On this form, Holding is not far away from his first full cap as an England international. Forget that though, and look at what he brings to Arsenal. Aerially combative, astute on the deck and quick to adapt if a player is quicker than him, he has also taken to Arteta’s demands to play out from the back like a duck to water.
We have a very special player on our hands, one who has proven this to doubters ever since signing for us.
Stand up Bobby H, you’ve done yourself and us proud. Keep up the good work!