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’Arsenal don’t aspire to be more like Chelsea’ – Gunners should look at European Champions as a ’competitive rival’, says Holding

‘Arsenal don’t aspire to be more like Chelsea’ – Gunners should look at European Champions as a ‘competitive rival’, says Holding

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The defender doesn’t think the gap between the two clubs is as significant as the final 2020-21 Premier League standings might suggest

Arsenal don’t aspire to be more like Chelsea, according to Rob Holding, who believes that the Gunners should look at the reigning European Champions as a “competitive rival”.

Chelsea bounced back from a slow start to the 2020-21 season after Thomas Tuchel was drafted in to replace Frank Lampard in January, securing a fourth-place Premier League finish while going all the way in the Champions League.

In stark contrast, Arsenal ended the campaign down in eighth and dropped out of European competition for the first time in 25 years, but Holding is adamant that the two clubs are more closely matched than the final table suggests.

What’s been said?

Speaking ahead of the Gunners’ pre-season friendly clash with the Blues on Sunday, the defender told The Guardian: ‘”I see Chelsea as a competitive rival for us.

“I don’t see them as a team we aspire to be like, and I don’t think they see us that way either. There’s a mutual respect between us and a recent history with FA Cup finals and playing each other in big games.

“I don’t think that, because they won the Champions League, we need to be more like Chelsea. Our results and league position need to improve, of course, but when we play each other it’s competitive.

“We’ve got to be aiming to get back in the Champions League. 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.”

Arsenal’s record v Chelsea in 2020-21

Arsenal managed to do the double over Chelsea last term, starting with a surprise 3-1 victory at Emirates Stadium in December that snapped a seven-match winless run for Mikel Arteta’s side.

They also triumphed at Stamford Bridge five months later, producing an impressive defensive display to earn a 1-0 win after going in front early through Emile Smith Rowe.

Holding on bouncing back from injury nightmare

Holding forced his way back into Arteta’s plans in 2020 after a long recovery from knee surgery that stretched over a period of 18 months.

The 25-year-old was strongly linked with a loan move last summer, but the Spanish boss kept faith with him, and he signed a new three-year deal at the Emirates in January after winning back his place in the team.

“It was a grind to get into the manager’s thoughts after my injury,” said Holding, who made 30 Premier League appearances for the Gunners last season. “In pre-season it was up in the air whether I’d go out and get a year of playing time, but he kept me around and I managed to repay that faith by putting in a decent shift all season.”

Further reading

Source: ’Arsenal don’t aspire to be more like Chelsea’ – Gunners should look at European Champions as a ’competitive rival’, says Holding

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