Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believes his decision to block a move away for Rob Holding last summer has been vindicated.
The Arsenal defender was close to joining Newcastle - who the Gunners play on Saturday in the FA Cup third round - only for Arteta to pull the plug on the potential loan deal.
Holding has gone on to make 18 appearances in all competitions this season and has started 13 of Arsenal’s 17 league games, including all of the last seven.
He has formed an excellent partnership alongside Pablo Mari in recent weeks, helping the Gunners to consecutive clean sheets in the league for the first time since the start of the campaign.
Arteta praised the 25-year-old for the way he has battled back to form since returning from the knee injury he suffered against Manchester United, which kept him sidelined for nearly 10 months.
“He had a period when he did not play and then he played against Leeds at home (an FA Cup match in January 2020),“ said the Arsenal boss. “When you compare how he has evolved from then to now, in a year’s time, it is incredible.
“It is down to him, how professional he is, how much he wants to learn, how much he puts into every training session and then his character and his personality.”
Arteta added: “He is growing in every aspect. I am really happy with him.
“It is true that in the summer he came to me because we had a large amount of central defenders and he was not sure about how many minutes he was going to have.
“We stopped him going anywhere because we knew he was going to be an important player for us.”
Arteta handed Holding the captain’s armband in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during Arsenal’s Premier League game at Everton before Christmas.
It was another indicator of how highly he rates the former Bolton defender, who is expected to put pen to paper on a new long-term contract before the end of the season.
“It is what I see on a daily basis with him and the room that he still has for improvement at his age,” said Arteta.
“I really like what I see and he has earned that right himself.
“It is true there have been many other conditions for him to play that many minutes because we have injuries, we have other issues, but he has earned that right.
“Nobody can question that when he has played, he has performed really well.”