Rob Holding: The 10-man specialist?
By Sumaiya Vawda
Arsenal's win against Wolves saw the celebration police emerge in full flow. So too did a conveyor belt of memes and statistics do the rounds. One such graphic outlined Rob holding's cameo- nine clearances, one block and 100% duel win rate. Arteta went as far as to credit his red card redeemer for the three points. Holding has made seven Premier League appearances this season, three coming as a substitute. Two substitute appearances were made with his side down to 10 players. He was also the preferred substitute when Granit Xhaka was sent off against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg. Why does Arteta so often turn to Holding when his side sees red? The most obvious answer is that Holding is often the only centre-back on the bench, and Arteta defaults to defensive solidity when there is fewer than the full 11 on the pitch, but that view may undersell some of the Englishman's strengths. In 19 minutes at Molineux, Holding made more clearances than any player who completed the full match. His heat map shows circular contours rooted within the 18-yard area. It was a lesson in deep-lying defending. Of course, he benefited from Ben White and Gabriel operating at a high level. The number 16 was impeccable in the air and made a last-ditch clearance to deny Nelson Semedo after a sequence of penalty box pinball. Undoubtedly, it was one of those nights where his boots carried him to the correct positions- particularly noteworthy when joining a defensive unit late in the 90. This wasn't the first time the brown-haired centre back impressed when his team needed him. The 26-year old was solid in a dogged display at Anfield, which ended with a clean sheet. Performances like these, coupled with a competitive character, make him an apt squad player. While he showed lapses against Man City, deep defending when numerically outnumbered highlight Holding's skills and conceal some weaknesses, i.e. speed, progressive passing, ball-carrying, covering large spaces and strength in defence. Rob Holding's Arsenal career has had many twists, but 'recurring substitute appearances when a red card is shown' is not one many would have seen coming. So when the next red card event (inevitably) rolls around, Arteta will likely turn to his 10-man specialist to once more muster all his fight when stepping into the fray from the cold.