Player focus: Rob Holding shows potential despite narrow Liverpool loss

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14: Rob Holding of Arsenal is closed down by Emre Can of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on August 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

It was most definitely a day to forget for Arsenal v Liverpool, especially as the gunners took the lead and squandered it in spectacular fashion.

The centre-backs in particular were under significant scrutiny in the build-up to the game, mainly because neither had bonafide Premier League experience in the position and their first competitive league fixture together just happened to be against Jürgen Klopp’s tricky Reds.

The first-half was a solid defensive display but equally seemed as though things could change within an instant. This was reiterated when Philippe Coutinho rifled home a free-kick into the top corner, 25 yards out, after referee Michael Oliver adjudged Holding to have hauled the Brazilian down to ground.

Upon reflection it was a soft free-kick awarded by the official as Coutinho was already off-balance, but Holding gave the referee a chance to give the decision in Liverpool’s favour by having his hands where he shouldn’t have.

At the half-time interval, the visitors went into the tunnel with the scores level when it was clear it should’ve been anything but. What came next was a near 20-minute counter-attacking blitz from Liverpool. Holding’s positioning came into question for Lallana’s goal to make it 2-1 as he pushed forward too much at the wrong time – allowing the ball to be flicked past the space he left open for Georginio Wijnaldum to deliver a teasing pass for Lallana to convert.

As you can see from this screenshot, Holding moves forward (circled) and the backline is caught off-guard by Wijnaldum’s run (black arrow).










He was unable to get tight enough to Coutinho during the build-up to Liverpool’s third in a slick passing move and he was on the opposite side to Sadio Mané’s brilliant solo run as the £30m man curled an effort into the top corner.

All-in-all, it was definitely a day to forget for Arsenal’s defensive-minded players. Holding showed signs of a first-team player who is encouraging but it was no surprise that his lack of experience at a high and demanding level showed against one of the league’s most dangerous sides.

As shown by the dashboard below, he was comfortable as usual with the ball at his feet, made a number of accurate short passes and defensively made a plethora of successful aerial duels as well as a few interceptions too.

Holding’s passing was mainly accurate. He made two interceptions and tackles, won seven aerial duels on a tough afternoon at the Emirates. | Photo: FourFourTwo

It’ll be interesting to monitor his progress over the coming months because although critics will have you think otherwise, he didn’t play poorly defensively. Mistakes happen and it’s important he’s given time to continue developing at the rapid rate he has done over the past twelve months as a Bolton player. Alongside someone such as Laurent Koscielny in central defence, he would have been more assured in dangerous situations as opposed to Calum Chambers – someone who is equally talented but has a tendency to lack composure defensively in key moments.

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