Arsenal defender Rob Holding is edging closer to his long-awaited return. Holding has been out since December 2018 but he has been stepping up his recovery with minutes in pre-season and for the U23 team.
It will not be long before the 23-year-old is back in first-team contention as he recovers from injury. When he is back fit, Holding needs to leapfrog Shkodran Mustafi in the pecking order immediately. Here’s why.
Holding harbours international ambitions
Holding suffered a nine-month injury at the wrong time in his career. He must have been in contention for an England call-up if his form continued but missing the back-end of last season and the start of this season has held him back.
If he can get back to his best, he will not only help Arsenal but could also get himself a senior England cap. And his game would develop and improve with regular playing time and international games too.
Mustafi needs January exit
Mustafi has come under fire over the past year or two for a string of error-riddled performances. In the summer, he was constantly linked with an Arsenal exit but didn’t manage to find a new club.
In January, the German defender needs to leave for the sake of his career. If Holding gets back in, Mustafi is either fourth or fifth-choice at Arsenal. Given his wages, it is time to move him on.
Holding offers option for formation change
Having Holding back allows Unai Emery to be more flexible with his formations. At the moment, he is playing a flat back-four with David Luiz and Sokratis starting and Calum Chambers in reserve.
With Holding also available, Arsenal could switch to a back-three if needed. This, in turn, allows his full-backs to be more attacking and firms things up at the back. Holding can bring the ball out of defence so he suits this role as well.