Defender has sights set on a place back in the Champions League and admits last season’s toils caused real lows around the squad

Until the last possible moment, Rob Holding held out a sliver of hope that the most gruelling of years might yet be extended further. Anyone grasping for positives from Arsenal’s season might have cited his increasingly consistent, mature performances at the heart of their defence but they were not enough to earn a first senior England call-up for Euro 2020. “When the squads were being announced I had my eye on it,” he says. “You never know, so I was looking. It didn’t happen for me this time but that’s not going to deter me or make me feel it’s never going to.”

Arsenal’s defensive record in 2020-21 was bettered only by Manchester City and Chelsea, although that was never going to offer much succour after a campaign of such barren reward. If it could not exactly be described as a breakthrough year for Holding, it was certainly a progression. He had never quite nailed down a regular spot, a situation not helped by anterior cruciate ligament surgery late in 2018, and appeared likely to depart on loan last autumn. But he convinced Mikel Arteta enough to give him 39 starts, 30 in the league, and a new contract in January suggested little appetite from either party to move on.

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