Rob Holding scout report: Profile of the Arsenal target
For too long the centre-back position has been an Achilles heel for Arsenal, costing them points and sometimes trophies. Per Mertesacker is getting on now, and isn't the commanding central defender he one was for Germany (sorry, he was never really that commanding for Arsenal), and Gabriel hasn't proved himself capable of being the first choice central defender for a club with aspirations of winning the Premier League.
Enter Rob Holding, Arsenal put in a cheeky bid of £2m for the Bolton academy graduate, and in the kind of market where Jordan Ibe goes for £15m, it is a real coup. Rob is one of those who came out of nowhere and took the world by storm.
Before the 2015-16 championship season, he had made only one appearance for the Trotters, but since then has made the place in the team his own, winning the Player of the Season award (and the first player from the Bolton academy to do so). Given the turmoil in the Bolton team last season a want-away owner, players not paid their wages, with a change of manager, and ultimately relegation from the Championship, it shows the maturity the youngster possesses.
Rob Holding is a Bolton man through and through. He has been at the club since the age of seven has come up through the youth ranks, till he was sent on loan to League Two club Bury. He made his professional debut with Bury but never got the opportunity to establish himself, and was back at Bolton at the beginning of last season.
By his own admission, he was looking to be as near the first team as possible, getting on the bench when he can and sneak in a cup appearance, he even had his pre-season with the U-21s. The fact that he is due to transfer to Arsenal speaks volume of his season he had since then.
He is also an England U-21 international with two caps to his name. He might have had a fortuitous introduction to the team, being a replacement for Everton youngster Brendan Galloway, but he certainly does possess the pedigree to make the place his own.
There is a tendency to label ball-playing defenders the next Rio Ferdinand, but I will bulk the tend and say, he is more of a Bonucci than Ferdinand, in the sense that he is talented on the ball but not one of them to take an unnecessary risk.
He also doesn't probably possess the pace of Rio Ferdinand, but his ability to read the game defies his age. He makes 3.3 interceptions per game, highlighting his ability to smell danger.
Strong in the tackle and good in the air, both pre-requisites of a defender playing in the championship, and both boxes ticked in green in his case. He is also quite handy in the opposition box, using his physical presence to cause nuisance, he averages 0.6 shots per game which is a high number for a central defender.
Being so good on the ball has its own downside. He gets dispossessed once in three games which can be a worrying thing for a defender, and he also has the odd moment of madness, but given the fact that he is only 20, it is difficult to expect a lot more from him.
But there is that occasion moment of magic, when all the centre-halves in the world go, "He should never be allowed to do that!". To know exactly what I am talking about, skip to 3:07 in the video.
"He is a great prospect. It doesn’t surprise me that other clubs are interested in him.
“I’ve said before that in the next four or five years he could be a captain at Bolton Wanderers. He has got a lot going for him." – Dean Holdsworth, Bolton owner
He is definitely a prospect. The financial condition of Bolton might allow Arsenal to snap him up for pawns, but he is definitely worth the risk. Players from the lower division have come up to the Premier League and held their own in the past (read Alli), and with a place available, he might be the latest prospect of the league.
Arsene Wenger is definitely the right manager to help him grow, and if he can tap into the experience of Mertesacker, he has the potential to go the distance.