Arsenal defender Rob Holding has been backed by former captain Per Mertesacker to boost the club's back line when he makes his long-awaited return from injury.
The 23-year-old suffered a serious knee injury last December against Manchester United, and has not played since. However, he is set to make his comeback in the coming weeks, and Mertesacker believes that Holding has learned from the setback, and expects the defender to progress once he has got over his initial doubts following a nine month lay-off.
"He will have been through a big process, a period of doubting himself. But slowly, when you make your first steps on the ground, you feel the ligament is working, you make steps running, do tackling, you grow", Mertesacker told The Athletic.
The World Cup winner also believes that Holding now realises that he has to do more off the pitch to ensure that he is in his best condition for games moving forwards.
"He learned that he can’t just turn up for training, he needs to do other things before and after to look after himself. Then he can really trust his body", Mertesacker added.
Although Mertesacker is optimistic for Holding's return, it is understood that the former Bolton defender will face a fight to regain his place in the starting line-up.
He was a regular in the first team in the first half of the 2018/19 season, often starting in a back three under Unai Emery. However, Emery now looks set to persevere with a back four, and has opted for Sokratis Papastathopoulos and new signing David Luiz as his centre back pairing for the last three Premier League games.
This means that Holding will have to displace one of these two experienced defenders if he is to force his way back into the side.