Morning all.

It seems David Ornstein and his chums at The Athletic are the most reliable of sports outlets. The newspaper is not for its glorious or misleading headlines, unlike a few I could mention. This morning, that very newspaper has some interesting information which is best shared.

Arsenal centre-back Rob Holding has committed his future to the club by signing a new long-term contract, The Athletic can reveal.

The 25-year-old was close to joining Newcastle on loan last summer but is enjoying regular game time this season and has now extended a deal that was scheduled to expire in 2023.

Although his recovery from a serious knee injury suffered in December 2018 was not easy, Holding has made 17 appearances in 2020-21 and started each of Arsenal’s past 12 Premier League games.

The permanent signing of two central defenders in the last transfer window — Pablo Mari and Gabriel — looked ominous for Holding and The Athletic reported in August that a temporary move to St James’s Park was near to being finalised.

Some at Arsenal were open to the Englishman’s departure as it would guarantee him minutes on the pitch and reduce the size of a bloated squad, however manager Mikel Arteta intervened and never had any desire to sanction the transfer.

Holding is viewed by Arteta and Arsenal’s technical director Edu as one of their emerging leaders and an important part of the club’s future as they seek to build a squad blending senior professionals with top-class emerging talent.

One player who could leave the Emirates Stadium is goalkeeper Alex Runarsson, with Arsenal open to letting the 25-year-old move on loan if they can secure a replacement as back-up to Bernd Leno.

Runarsson arrived from French side Dijon in September after Emi Martinez was sold to Aston Villa and the Gunners could not secure their first-choice successor, David Raya of Brentford.

The Iceland international was always viewed as more of number three stopper and he endured a disappointing performance in the 4-1 League Cup defeat at home to Manchester City last month.

Arsenal decision is not a reaction to that display but they recognise the need for Runarsson to gain experience, which should be possible with a host of teams in the Championship and Europe interest in taking him for the second half of the campaign.

While they will again explore signing a permanent number two, if that is not possible in January then an seasoned player may be loaned before the matter is readdressed in the summer. It is unclear if Raya, whose club are pushing for promotion to the Premier League, remains the first-choice target.

Arsenal also have a highly-rated Estonian goalkeeper Karl Hein and the 18-year-old qualifies as homegrown in the summer. That helps mitigate for the exit of Matt Macey to Hibernian.

 

If true, and logic alone would suggest it probably is, what a turnaround for Rob Holding. He looked to be on his way out but together with Pablo Mari, our defence has looked pretty secure. Even Leno seems calmer with the pair of them in front of him. Holding is a good old fashioned English defender I think. Defending comes first and certainly before trying to be Messi with the ball at his feet.

I’m not at all surprised to read were after a new number two keeper. Runasson is too lightweight, inexperienced and looks scared stiff each time the ball comes his way. He’s not a keeper Arsenal should be depending on if Leno were to suffer an injury. Clearly Mikel Arteta feels the same otherwise Runasson would have started against Newcastle.

In my opinion, the club should look to the Championship or League One for a new keeper.  Find someone who is busy week in week out and is performing. Find someone strong and with a presence. Experienced but not past it. Someone who isn’t afraid of big players up against him. You know, like the guy we had this time last season who stepped up when Leno did get injured.

It’s the FA Cup draw later today and seeing as we can’t draw Marine at home, Crawley would be a good tie. I watched them beat Leeds yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Crawley totally deserved their victory but Leeds really were awful. Crawley have a good left back, a guy the Toots and then Brentford let go apparently. He scored a cracking goal and defended well too.

Anyway, at  7.10pm today, we’ll find out who we’re to face next.

See you in the comments.