Think the headline says it all here, but just to reiterate — Rob Holding has signed a new contract that will keep him at Arsenal for the next several years. His prior contract was slated to expire in 2023, and with the need to trim the squad, he’d been one of the names floated both internally and externally as a candidate to leave the club. Indeed, Holding was quite close to a loan move to Newcastle in the fall until Mikel Arteta nixed the move.
A quick note: “long term” in Premier League terms does not mean the same thing as U.S. sports fans understand it to mean. Arsenal didn’t just sign Rob Holding to a 10-year deal. While the details haven’t been released or reported yet, I’d bet the contract is a 4 or 5 year one, at most, that will take the now 25-year old Holding somewhere close to his 30th birthday.
Mikel Arteta rates Holding highly and sees him as an emerging leader at the club, according to The Athletic. And Holding has rewarded that confidence with a strong run of play this season, including starting the last 11 straight Premier League matches. That starting streak actually surprised me a bit — I hadn’t realized he’d supplanted David Luiz so convincingly. But it’s clear that, at least right now, Arteta prefers Holding’s solid, consistent, and a bit unspectacular style to Luiz’s unpredictable and erratic performances, even if there is a significant drop-off in passing ability between the two.
I think this is a good move for Arsenal. Before his knee injury in 2018, Holding was in great form, and he looks to have finally gotten back to that level. Is he going to be a superstar? No. And that’s okay! Not everybody on your squad has to be the best player in the world at their position. Holding is a good enough passer, a strong tackler, and particularly good in the air.
He reminds me a bit of Per Mertesacker, come to think of it. The German was a solid player who didn’t make many mistakes and was a leader in the locker room. Rob Holding probably isn’t at Mertesacker’s level yet, but that’s more because I think Mertesacker was underrated rather than a knock on Holding. The point is Rob Holding looks on the path to be a lot like Per Mertesacker — a solid, veteran player, who even though he’s not going to win games for you is going to give you at least a solid 6 or 7 out of 10 performance every time out. Successful squads need guys like that.
Plus, he’s homegrown and will have resale value towards the end of the deal if the brass see fit to sell him on. It’s a smart, unremarkable move from the Arsenal front office, which given some of the recent disaster-signings, is a step in the right direction.
And we’ll get to watch Holding’s hairline recede in real time, which I’m sure will make a whole lot of Arsenal fans somewhat less self-conscious about their own hair slowly disappearing. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.