Holding: No Europe could be a blessing

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Rob Holding says Arsenal must make use of next season’s lighter schedule to focus on securing a return to the Champions League.

After last season’s eighth-placed finish, the Gunners head into the 2021/22 campaign without European football for the first time in more than 25 years.

While it’s a novelty the club doesn’t want to get used to, the situation will mean more time on the training ground, less time travelling abroad and a chance to rest up between matches; all ingredients that should support the squad on the domestic front.

“We’ve got to be aiming to get back in the Champions League,” Holding told the Guardian ahead of Sunday’s pre-season friendly with Chelsea.

“With no Europe this season we’ve got no distractions or fixture congestion and can really focus on our Premier League games.

“I think Liverpool did the same a few years ago, and Chelsea similarly when they won the league in Antonio Conte’s first year.

“So it can be a blessing in disguise in some aspects. We’ve just got to think of it that way and hit the ground running.”

While the Gunners finished last season relatively strongly – only Manchester United and Manchester City accumulated more points between December and May – we paid the price for an abject opening four months where goals were hard to come by.

Reflecting on the situation, Holding said: “We really struggled. We just couldn’t find the net and were just trying to hold on to games.

“The best result we were trying to get was a 0-0 because we weren’t scoring, so we were just trying to stop the opposition. It was something that followed us around in each game, and it was tough.

“At times there were real lows around the camp and it was about how we could refocus, and try to go into matches with a different mentality.”

Playing in front of empty terraces due to Covid-19 didn’t help. Thankfully, it’s looking like stadia will return to full capacity when things kick off in August.

“When we were playing every three or four days and had no crowd, going again in front of an empty stadium, it did feel like a slog,” said Holding.

“With fans coming back now, it’s crazy how different it feels, how much more energy there is on the pitch. When you make a tackle or a block and a big cheer goes up, then you’re excited for the next bit of play rather than just blocking it, hearing nothing and then thinking, like, ‘Oh’.”

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Matt

This headline is the post-Wenger reality only the worst pessimists feared.

Johnny 4 Hats

Arsenal fans are secretly huge optimists though.

We lose some preseason games – “Brilliant, that’s exactly what the invincibles did!”

Then we win some preseason games – “Yes bruv. Things really starting to gel now!”

This statement from Holding speaks of this undeniable gooner optimism.

Qwaliteee

And I was taken to task because I said that people are now falling into a comfort zone brought on by the mediocrity of the past few seasons. People ARE getting comfy. First with no ECL and the Europa, then 8th place and now no European football at all. As I have said before, blind faith is every bit as dangerous as blind negativity. I like Rob Holding a lot, but you would not have seen a headline like this from Adams, Vieira or Henry. It smacks of complacency and that – coming from Rob Holding of all people –… Read more »

Hakuna Matata

His headline has really changed. Nothing like henry, viera or adams. All had perfect headlines

Qwaliteee

I do believe the word you are searching for is hairline.

Non flying dutchman

Channeling his inner Steve Bould

Qwaliteee

Not by coming out with statements like that, he isn’t.

Bouldy would have told the press that No Europe for Arsenal is totally unacceptable – not a blessing.

Announce Bendtner

But the decline didn’t start with no ECL. When was the last consistent title challenge? Excluding the season where we let Leicester take it.

It’s not called comfort, it’s called reality of a changing league / financial landscape.

I want us back challenging, but it’s even more complicated now. I’ll keep the optimism and hope extra time on training ground pays off. Let’s get back up there challenging for titles but it’s one step at a time.

goongot

So true. And i am not sure about fans being back now that delta variant is spreading rapidly around the globe and 3rd wave is real possibility everywhere.

John

I agree with you but I have a suspicion that we would have gone on the same trajectory and dropped out of Europe had Arsene stayed longer. The team and the club were already in decline in his later years – including dropping out of the Champions League and (even worse) finishing below Spurs.

Qwaliteee

Wenger’s ‘failures’ have nothing to do with the state of the club now.

Our current situation and the football we play is on Arteta, nobody else

Dave

Yep I agree. The current state of the club has nothing to do with Stan, Ivan, Wenger, Sven, Emery, Raul, Edu or Vinai. It is ENTIRELY Arteta’s fault.

Heavenly Chapecoense

The FA Cup won with Arteta, you gave credit to Stan, Ivan, Wenger, Sven, Emery, Raul and Vinai?

ASH

Auba was a Wenger signing, and was very influential in winning Arsenal the FA cup

Auba’s new contract was given by Arteta, and he is now a liability worse than Ozil.

Qwaliteee

Grow up mate.

Stan, Ivan, Sven, Raul et al are not/weren’t responsible for how the team plays.

They are/were responsible for how the club was/is run – two entirely separate issues.

We finished 8th last season instead of top four because of the dire way the team had been instructed to play. That had absolutely nothing to do with anyone except Arteta.

Qwaliteee

I don’t know about blessings, but no Europe certainly means that there’s no excuses for a repeat of last season’s mediocrity in the league.

Goonerink

I think his point on no crowds is a key reason why the ‘lesser’ teams performed better last season.

Man Manny

I think so.

Perry Groves Tips

It seems like an excuse to me. Surely, regardless of whether teams are “lesser” or not, whatever that means in reality, they are all encouraged by their home supporters – who are, in my experience, far noisier in many cases than the norm at The Emirates, I’m sad to say. It’s down more to how teams adapted to empty stadiums rather than their standing in any club heirarchy, isn’t it?

Non flying dutchman

I dont know about that. Possibly for west ham considering they would barely have noticed any difference in the London Stadium anyway. But not for other teams that get a lot of their energy from their home support.

Think your also forgetting just how toxic thw atmosphere in the emirate can be sometimes

Crash Fistfight

I think that’s the complete opposite of what happened last season. Why do you think there were so many away wins with no crowds? The ‘lesser’ teams usually do better at home than they should on paper due to the influence of their home support.

Which ‘lesser’ teams did well, exactly?

Look how badly Sheffield United did from one season to the next, and even after Project Restart (we were lucky that it happened before we had to play them away in the FA Cup BTW).

Rob67

He’s right.

We can concentrate squarely on the PL and there can be no valid excuses if we don’t see a clear improvement And by ‘clear’ – I mean 15 points.

It’s not an easy ask at all. But it’s far from impossible. And it’s good news that some in the squad – hopefully all – can see that.

Perry Groves Tips

Yes, Holding is probably right given our current circumstances. Isn’t it just a futher indication of where we’ve got to (over a number of seasons, not overnight) that Arsenal aren’t capable of “doing” both domestic and European football, and that a player like Holding thinks it could be a good thing. We’re all looking for an obvious improvement in the PL but I wouldn’t translate that specifically into points as it’s all relative to what other clubs do (or don’t do). Personally, I would be very surprised indeed if we got into the top four, but a qualifying place for… Read more »

UzesGooner

Yep, top 6 is the minimum. We are linked to really good players, so see where we are in a month. We’ve already signed 3 good players (assuming White) and most transfers don’t happen until the last minute……I’m confident 💪🏿

Crash Fistfight

I think top 6 has to be the aim. Having to play in the Conference League is not much reward for finishing 7th. Finishing top 4 would be a hell of an achievement at this point, given how strong both Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Chelsea are at the moment. I can’t imagine West Ham being a factor this season, and I don’t think Leicester are all that, for all the praise they get. It remains to be seen if Tottenham will be any good (lots could happen between now and the transfer deadline) and Everton seem to be better at… Read more »

Jenas Wright Martin Mour

Top 4 should be the target…Top 6 is the bare minimum..

Afterall some ppl/media still do refer to us as a Big 6 team….

Qwaliteee

Talk is cheap.

The players really do need to shut up about the ‘slog’ of a lack of fans (Covid had the potential to handicap everyone – not just Arsenal), get their heads down and stop looking for excuses for last season’s tripe.

And any replies to media questions about this season need to send out a message that no Europe is simply not good enough for Arsenal – not to refer to it as a ‘blessing’ – is he having a laugh…?

SarcasmB0t

My main issue is that we’re seemingly doing this half way. We have no idea what our midfield is going to look like, who our starting RB is going to be or if we’re getting another CAM and who. Oh, and we don’t have a number 2 goalkeeper and our striker has had his worst season in ages. And our manager may be bad. Sorry, but I just don’t see us making the top four. Leicester looks much better set up than we are, and other teams haven’t exactly gotten worse. If that’s the case and we’re out of Europe,… Read more »

Qwaliteee

For the record, I don’t see us making top four either.

It’s July and people on here are day dreaming again. Quite sad really. Bordering on Spursy.

Arsene's Champagne Football

Yeah, still remember jeers the players got celebrating 4th place some years ago. Things fall apart…

Crash Fistfight

I think top 4 is a big ask, regardless of not having to play midweek games. Anything other than top 6 should be seen as failure, though.

Just to say, I think Holding’s comments are trying to look for positives (every cloud has a silver lining and all that) rather than accepting mediocrity.

Jenas Wright Martin Mour

The operative word uttered by Holding here is “CAN” be a blessing ( if we managed to get into top 4 this season or win the title like Chelsea did a few seasons ago)..He added …’we just have to think like that and start to hit the ground running’..

I truly don’t see anything wrong with his statement….certainly not a lack of ambition, anyway….

jacob

ROB BALDING

Jarghs

Rob Bould-ing

Zenithreptile

What is the weird obsession with this guy’s appearance? He’s a young, intelligent, rich, elite athlete and more than likely has already achieved more in his short life than any of us here could even dream to.
Plus he plays for all of our favourite football team.
Who gives a fishes fuck what he looks like..

Forest gooner

Voldemort with a 👃

UzesGooner

Have you seen his girlfriend? 💯

SarcasmB0t

Glad to hear it’s all part of the plan.

In other news:
Edu: Willian being awful allows other players to shine
Arteta: Scoring goals can be a distraction
Willian: Maybe it’s better to earn money and not play

Db412

Willian: Not playing midweek has meant I’ve been around ensure my new multimillion pound dream home is built to my exact specifications and be ready for my retirement in 2 years.

SarcasmB0t

For all intents and purposes, he’s already retired.

It’s just that he’s found a football club willing to pay him a very generous pension.

TeeCee

If he were already retired, he wouldn’t be going into work.
Which would be an improvement.

SarcasmB0t

Some retirees play sports to pass the time.

They usually don’t go all out, which fits the pattern.

Some also like to hang out at their old workplace, it makes them feel less useless.

Qwaliteee

Don’t forget all that free time for fine dining.

Man Manny

It is not unthinkable that Arsenal could be in the top 4 discussions next season. Everyone agrees our last season was one of the most underwhelming in God-knows-how long. But we missed top 4 by single digit points! Can we claw back those points? I am almost certain we can. 1. We have a better team than last season. 2. We have lesser games 3. ESR starts from the beginning of the season. 4. Ødegaard might return or we sign same type player from the beginning of season. 5. Defence will even be better than last time out. 6. Partey… Read more »

ChickPEA

He’s actually right, but we can’t miss the goal, or we might start to lose players like Saka.
I wouls say top 4 is achievable, behind Chelsea and the Manchesters. We have many bright spots in our squad indeed (Saka Tierney ESR Pepe Martinelli, hopefully Partey White and Lokonga), and our second half of last season was pretty good, numbers-wise.
Let’s do it!

Qwaliteee

🤣

UzesGooner

Yeah man….positive waves !!!!! All depends on the signings in the next month, but because of the ESL fiasco and Ek bid/fan unrest we have finally got some proper investment (it seems) into the team…….so far, so good. Lokonga looks great, Tavares has potential and White is the most promising English CB……if we get a great no 8 and 10, we are on track. The squad was ‘bang average’ last year (Tata 😉) and will have so much more depth. No excuses, top 6 at least…….bring it on !

SarcasmB0t

“White is the most promising English CB” … after one PL season and before he’s played a single game for us – or even signed.

The irony of the expectations placed on this 23-year-old Rolls Royce of a person in light of having to “protect” Saliba from the spotlight is off the charts.

Man Manny

Saliba was 18, and had no minute of EPL football, when he signed.
No comparisons there.

UzesGooner

What?? He’s in the England squad getting rave reviews based on that one season. Trained and loved by Bielsa (who then tried to buy him)…..if you’re not excited by this signing you may as well give up IMO. He’s not protecting Saliba, he’s bought to actually play right now. Who is the most promising CB in England if it isn’t BW?

SarcasmB0t

IN England? Fofana.

As far as who the most promising English center back is, I have no idea, but I do know that it’s silly to place such expectations on a young player before he’s even been signed by us.

He better be the best CB in the world, else he’ll never live the hype down.

FWI, Bielsa coaches Leeds. We’re apparently aiming for top four.
Leeds aren’t.

UzesGooner

I think it’s only you demanding he’s the best CB in the world. Stop being a div and get excited that we’ve pulled this off……I know who Bielsa is, but that reference went over your head. FFS…….can’t you see we’re moving in the right direction? DOOM AND FUCKING GLOOM……Well done 👍

Qwaliteee

“Moving in the right direction”…..?

8th…..?

🤣

SarcasmB0t

Um, you’ve posted that we’re moving in the right direction under an article saying it’s great we’re out of Europe, actually. I would argue that’s Exhibit A that we’re not. You’re the one who said he was the “most promising English CB.” I hope for the kid’s sake he doesn’t do a Partey or a Pepe and have an underwhelming first season, because the fans will crucify him if he does. Sure, he’s played in England, but mostly in a back three. We don’t play in a back three. And I know who Bielsa is. He’s someone who took a… Read more »

UzesGooner

Yeah I get that, there seems to be a large anti- Arteta group on here based on one season. It’s not great we’re out of Europe, but it could be beneficial in the league next season without all the travelling…..do you not see that? I don’t think fans will crucify him….were Pepe or Partey crucified? i expect both of them to have a strong season. All I’m saying is we are on the right track in terms of a massively needed rebuild. I can see the logic of investing in White, as he’s home grown and is the most promising… Read more »

SarcasmB0t

Look, I’ll be honest, I think Arteta is a busted flush who’ll be fired before the season’s over. He also pushes a lot of my buttons by pretending to be a martinet with some players while being far too accommodating with others – ironically with players we don’t or shouldn’t own. The hounding out of young players based on their “attitude” off the field while persisting with more experienced players who fail to show the right attitude on it. I would argue Pepe has been crucified in his first season. But when it comes to White, he’s going to have… Read more »

UzesGooner

👍 We’ll see…..I’m not Arteta’s fan club, just wanna get behind the team. Let’s check in at Xmas and see where we are……too much negative shite on here for me atm….I’m gonna enjoy the hope for a while !

SarcasmB0t

The hope is what kills you though.

Teryima Adi

Amen🙏🙏🙏

gus

how far we have fallen — at least spuds are at the end of their upturn(still trophy less)

UzesGooner

They’ve gotta play in the Tottenham Conference League….which sounds like hell, so I expect to finish above them easily

Nainsley Aitland Miles

The real danger there is that the Conference League is so bad, Tottenham may just have a chance to win it. It would be a surprise if the winner is anyone other than them or Roma.

UzesGooner

Don’t be daft 😂

TeeCee

So a sp*rs / Roma final, with Roma winning due to some sort of massive sp*rs-up then?

Qwaliteee

Heh. Spurs would probably win 1-0 after being gifted their winner by Xhaka.

Indiegooner

I guess this is better than the European confedaration league or whatever that supds are on. Not sour grapes or anything but apart from providing an opportunity for younger players, I don’t see much value in that competition.

UzesGooner

Exacto.

Cultured Determination

Someone please tell me what’s happening with his hair. Morphing into bouldy this season?

Disarmed Gunner

He has been balding for quite a while and seems he is getting or has gotten a hair transplant. Most balding guys (I’m a bald guy btw) gradually buzz their hair down overtime as it sheds. When you see a rapid head shave like this it’s because to get a transplant you need to shave the entire head hair. Don’t be surprised if in a year he magically has a full head of hair again. Jack Wilshire had a transplant, Eriksen, even Klopp.

Fatgooner

There’s more chance of Dennis Bergkamp being a passenger on Jeff Bezo’s next trip into outer space than Arsenal finishing top-four next season.

We’ve made no substantial improvement to the squad so far and even the arrival of Ben White isn’t going to tip the balance. I can’t see us finishing any higher than sixth.

And it’s going to be very nasty atmosphere with the crowds back.

UzesGooner

6th is good and on the right track. Anything less is a failure and Arteta knows that

Fatgooner

Bollocks! WE ARE THE ARSENAL!! Sixth is utter humiliation for a club of our size.

UzesGooner

Urghhhh…..not in reality for where we are atm. on the up son 💪🏿

Qwaliteee

The ‘reality’ such as it is, is that we are not ‘on the up.’

We finished 8th and are out of Europe.

That’s the reality, mate. Hardly ‘On the up.’

Naked Cygan

I 100% agree with you. I feel standards have dropped by the fans and every excuse is made to accommodate Arteta.

UzesGooner

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…..nobody is accommodating Arteta, far from it, just getting behind the team with a clean slate at THE START OF A NEW SEASON !!!! If he doesn’t deliver he’ll be gone then you can moan about the next manager soon enough. FFS, have you seen how much Man City, Manure, Loop and Chelsea have spent recently? We are playing catch up and are now, FINALLY, investing in our weak squad…….why can’t you at least give it a chance?????

Qwaliteee

It’s not the squad that’s weak – it’s the so-called brand of ‘football’ that they’re being forced to play.

Our worst league campaign for over 25 years, out of Europe, backwards and sideways passing – and you want everyone to wipe the slate clean……?

I’d say that was accommodating Arteta, wouldn’t you……?

UzesGooner

OK….wallow if you like. We had to play Elneny a lot last season who does pass sideways, as well as Cedric out of position etc etc…….the point is, our squad was weak by elite PL standards. We were 6 points off CL so the stats don’t tell the full story….I see hope with what is happening in this window. If you don’t, that’s up to you. Over and out….I’ve had enough negative bollocks, I’m gonna look on the bright side.

Qwaliteee

I see one new first team starting XI signing, who, at the time of writing, still hasn’t actually signed.

What was George Michael said? “Hanging onto hope/ When there is no hope to speak of”

I’m ‘praying for time’ – when this club finally get an owner and a manager that can genuinely take it forward.

Not making up the numbers with our fan base being fed an annual summer crock of patronising, empty promises.

Qwaliteee

*it

Vonnie

You’re wasting your time feeding the trolls, they’re so determined to be negative there’s no reasoning with them. I’m hoping we play a blinder next season so they can shut up, there’s a lot to be optimistic about.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Honest assessment but too hard to predict until the transfer window is closed. Our current squad should be finishing above West Ham and Leicester so at the moment 6th is a fair prediction.

Qwaliteee

A realistic post for once. Quite refreshing, especially on here.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Top 4 is the name of the game this season but with no Europe we should also be able to have a real crack at winning both the domestic cups and – depending on the opposition – field strong line-ups in both.

Perry Groves Tips

I hope that you’re right, although I think your forecast is a little optimistic really, given where we’re starting from. All clubs with top four ambitions, and there are several now, will hope to strengthen their squads before the close of the transfer window at the end of August. I’m not sure that we’ll be able to improve ours sufficiently in a single window to match and then overtake some of these and achieve what you’re hoping for. For the coming season, I’d be happy with an EL qualifying place in the PL and a domestic cup – although anything… Read more »

Tommmy

The early rounds of the League Cup we should still play the fringe players/youth with maybe 2/3 first XI, as there is no europa to give them a run out

Nainsley Aitland Miles

That’s why I said depending on the opposition. We could get drawn with say Everton or Villa away in the League Cup in Round Two. They’ll field their strongest team, so I would expect us to play our strongest team too to be safe. If it’s Exeter City, fine, roll with the likes of Okwonko, Cedric, Tavares, Willian, Nketiah, Balogun, Azeez, Elneny, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Nelson. But that won’t work against Premier League opposition. We took a few gambles at Southampton and were knocked out the FA Cup. With no Europe this season, we don’t need to take those rotational gambles… Read more »

Naked Cygan

There are two sides to a coin. When u play crap, the fans will let know. I bet the players don’t miss that.

Qwaliteee

One or two individuals, mentioning no names (oh, alright then, Willian and Arteta) are about to find out exactly what the flip side of the coin is all about.

Brady’s bunch

He has a point we were only six points shy of fourth place last season so hopefully with a better start and a bit more consistency and a bit of service to the striker from a more cohesive midfield and we’re sorted (just like that).

Qwaliteee

You’re basing your predictions on the assumption that the top seven (in front of us) won’t improve their squads too.

We could (and fuckingwell should) make up six points on our total for last season – but would it be enough to get us into the top four….?

It’s not quite as cut and dried as you’re proposing.

Brady’s bunch

That is true but I’m basing my predictions on the fact that we were so poor last season and hopefully we have a better unit this year. Auba doesn’t just become a bad player for instance, I just think that so many players underperformed at the same time last year and from that point of view there should be a little bit of optimism however misplaced only time will tell.

Wolsty

I think 5th or 6th would be a great achievement this season, given where we are at the moment, with the transfer window still open. We’ve got no divine right to finish top 4 and frankly aren’t good enough. I’m still to be convinced by Arteta but he’s been given funds so needs to spend them wisely otherwise he could be struggling to keep his job by Christmas. I sincerely hope that he and the team prove me wrong and I’ll be more than happy to eat humble pie…. COYG….

Rectum sepctrum

Holding may start wearing a priest collar and robes then because we are going to be blessed and blessed again. Thousands will come from miles around, different countries even, each week to worship in our holy place.