Lee Dixon has slammed Rob Holding’s defending in Arsenal’s 1-0 loss to Aston Villa in the Premier League at Villa Park on Saturday lunchtime.
Dean Smith’s side required less than two minutes to break the deadlock against an Arsenal side whose confidence was fragile following a shambolic performance at Wolves in mid-week.
Arsenal squandered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to Wolves at Molineux Stadium Tuesday night as Brazilian defender David Luiz and German goalkeeper Bernd Leno received red cards.
Mikel Arteta started new signing Mat Ryan in goal for his Gunners debut but the former Brighton goalkeeper conceded within 120 seconds at the Birmingham club.
Cedric Soares’ poor pass to Gabriel was intercepted by Bertrand Traore before the Villa forward teed up Ollie Watkins to score an early winner thanks to a deflection off Holding.
While the Portugese defender took the brunt of the blame for his poor pass in the lead up to Watkins’ winner, former Arsenal defender Dixon was critical of Holding’s role in the decisive goal.
“I think Cedric made a mistake, it was his first touch of the ball, it’s come to him and he’s a little bit sloppy with it but you’re thinking it’s not too bad because Gabriel is there,” Dixon told Premier League Productions, as quoted by Metro.
“But then he makes the mistake of thinking he can get to the ball instead of dropping off and waiting for the striker to come.
“Rob Holding will probably look at that and go, ‘Why is he having a go at me for that? I couldn’t do anything’, but it’s what goes on before the ball actually comes to him, to assess the situation.
“As a defender you’ve got to be putting fires out all the time: ‘If that happens I’ve got to be there, if this happens…’, you’ve got to be a pessimist.
“I think he was looking at it and going, ‘I’ve got a man, it’s fine’ but what he should have done it look at the box and go.
“There’s nobody else here and I can go really tight on him” and that just stops the position.
“If he has a little look around, he’ll realise there’s no Villa player in the box apart from Watkins and he can go, ‘Right, I’ll go tight and if he makes a run behind me I can kind of block him’, so you get really tight.
“The time to mark space is when there’s lots of players in the box and you have to do that job because if the ball goes in, someone else will put it in but he was the only one there.”
Holding has started 20 times in the Premier League this season to establish himself as a regular under Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal signed Holding in a £2m deal from Bolton Wanderers in the 2016 summer transfer window when Arsene Wenger was still in charge of the north London side.
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