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Rob Holding signs for Crystal Palace

And then there was one…

Arsenal v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Final Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

The 2023 Premier League summer transfer window came to a close on Friday, and with it came a flurry of deadline day moves. Arsenal FC managed to wrap up their incoming business rather early, which left the club to sort out the various outgoing in an effort to move on from players surplus to requirements at the Emirates.

And it was on deadline day that marked the end of an era - the Rob Holding era. The longtime Arsenal defender departed the club after 7 years in North London, heading 13 miles south after signing a three year deal with Crystal Palace worth approximately £4 million.

With his departure, there remain three players on the first team that played under Arsene Wenger - Hale End graduates Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah, and Mohammed Elnenny, the last remaining Arsene Wenger signing.

Rob Holding joined Arsenal from Bolton for £2 million at 20 years of age following the 2015-16 season when he was named Bolton’s Player of the Year. He was thrown into the fire rather quickly as Arsenal faced injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista, leading to Arsene Wenger’s memorable press conference defense of Holding following a 0-0 draw with Leicester with Arsene Wenger famously telling the media “I’m sorry [he] did not cost £55 million so he must not be good.”

He joined Arsenal at the beginning of its rockiest time, but was instrumental during some of the most important performances of that period, most notably in the victorious 2017 FA Cup final over Chelsea where he summarily pocketed long-time Arsenal foe Diego Costa. During his time at Arsenal, Rob Holding won two FA Cups and three Community Shields, a rather impressive return on such a prudent investment.

There was a brief moment where he was poised to become one of the league’s best defenders, but, as is all too often the case with promising Arsenal players, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in late 2018 from which he never fully recovered. He eventually made his way back into the squad in September of 2019, but was never quite the same after. His greatest comeback still remains the return of his hairline in 2021.

Holding endured the end of the Wenger era, the tumultuous Unai Emery years, and survived the great purge of the early Arteta period which saw greater roster churn than nearly any other time in modern Arsenal history. Through it all, Holding remained a humble and loyal servant of the club. Even when the Gunners brought in newer, younger, and better defenders and his playing time dwindled, he never made a fuss. He was a consummate professional through it all, and he is a player that deserves the tremendous respect of the Arsenal fanbase.

Farewell, Rob Holding, and thank you for your service. May you enjoy many more years of success wherever your future path may lead.

Once a Gunner, always a Gunner.