Arsenal’s Rob Holding issues William Saliba warning ahead of next season
Rob Holding has warned William Saliba he faces a fight to force his way into the Arsenal team next season.
Holding scored in Sunday's 2-1 win at West Ham in only his second league start since January because of an injury to Ben White. But with White and Gabriel Magalhaes currently Mikel Arteta's preferred pair at centre back and Holding in reserve, Arsenal already have plenty of competition at the back.
And Holding has no intention of making it easy for Saliba, currently on loan at Marseille, to get ahead of him in the pecking order when he returns to the Emirates next season. The Gunners defender said: "I have been here six years and there have been so many centre-halves in and out the door, so it’s always been competitive.
"You are at Arsenal, it is going to be competitive. I think we are on the same page, in terms of as a team. So whenever I am needed to help the team. Against West Ham I played the 90 and stepped in for Ben, I can hopefully help get the three points when I called upon."
Holding has had to be content with a supersub role recently, coming on at the end of games to see them out. He said: "I think the mainstay of the defence has been Gabi and Ben in the middle. Then on occasions, with 20 to go, I’ve been called upon to come on and sort of help the guys get it over the line.
"I think we have got a good mentality when our backs are against the walls and we are seeing out games. I think at the end of the season that’ll pay off. Obviously I enjoy playing and I want to play, so if it’s 20 minutes at the end of the game to help the team, I’ll come on and do my best and try and get the lads the three points."
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Saliba's future at Arsenal remains in doubt. The Gunners signed him from St-Etienne for £27m in the summer of 2019, beating off competition from Tottenham. But the 21-year-old, who has helped Marseille keep 18 clean sheets this season, has yet to play for Arteta's side and has been sent out on loan three times instead.
Gunners boss Arteta insists he wants Saliba back at Arsenal for pre-season this summer and that he will get his chance to play. But Saliba spoke out about his future last week, saying: "My wish is to finish the season well, to leave on a good note in case I don't come back. It would be my pleasure to come back no matter what. It's not as if I know I’m not going to come back, it's Marseille, it's my club."
Saliba's chances at Arsenal could get a boost if they finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. And Holding insists they must not get distracted by next Thursday's North London Derby when they face Leeds this weekend.
He said: "We have got to take it a game at a time. Obviously we have got Leeds at the weekend and that’s always an intense game. They come and bring energy. It will be a tough game, but we are at home with the fans behind us and we can try chalk up another three points. Then the following week on the Thursday we have Tottenham, so that’s what it’ll come down to and it should be a good game."
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