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Rob Holding Steps Up As Arsenal Stage Set For Anyone To Become Title Hero

Mikel Arteta says their Euro exit has brought “clarity” to their season and Sunday’s victory certainly suggested the Gunners are fully focused on the job at hand.

Arsenal cruised past Crystal Palace, running out comfortable winners to go eight points clear of Manchester City going into the international break.

City have a game in hand on Arsenal, as they were in FA Cup action over the weekend. Their 6-0 victory over Burnley booked them a place in the semi-finals, but it added to their fixture congestion.

City have at least 14 games left in all competitions, but it could be 18 if they make the finals of the Champions League and FA Cup. It is quite the juggling act compared to Arsenal’s 10-game countdown.

“We have 10 finals to go,” said Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka. “We are out of every [other] competition, it’s only the Premier League.

“That is the way we are treating it — 10 finals. We prepare our best and give everything on the pitch, then see where that takes us.”

Sunday was surely one of the easiest games Arsenal will face in the run-in, and Arteta will know there are far tougher tests ahead. The Gunners still have to play at Anfield, the Etihad and St James’ Park, as well as host Chelsea.

Palace have not won a game in 2023, and Jeffrey Schlupp’s goal on Sunday was their first in the League for nearly seven hours. Having sacked manager Patrick Vieira just 48 hours before this game, they were already in a state of flux, and Arsenal took full advantage.

Players could be called upon at any moment and, as is the way with cup finals, the stage is set for anyone to be a hero

Gabriel Martinelli bounced back from his penalty miss on Thursday to open the scoring, and Saka carried on his remarkable season by bagging a brace. Granit Xhaka got in on the act to make it two goals in as many games.

Arteta was delighted by the attacking performance, but just as pleasing was the way Rob Holding slotted into the heart of defence. William Saliba was absent due to a back injury, and Arsenal are set to learn more about the extent of the problem on Monday. Holding had played just 17 minutes of League football this season before Sunday. However, he stepped up and looked solid.

With the finish in sight, it is all about just getting over the line for Arsenal. Players could be called upon at any moment and, as is the way with cup finals, the stage is set for anyone to be a hero. “Everybody has to give more,” said Arteta. “If we want to maintain that level, everyone has to step in, give more — and Rob is a great example of what we needed.”

Over the next 10 games, it is highly possible someone else finds themselves in Holding’s position — and Arteta will have everything crossed that Arsenal get no more injuries during the international break. Takehiro Tomiyasu already looks likely to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury sustained against Sporting. He is undergoing further assessment on Monday.

The good thing for Arsenal is that they have coped well with injuries this season. At times they have been without Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Thomas Partey — and they have always managed to stay on course for a first title since 2004.

Now they are on the final stretch, and Arteta is telling his players it will take all of them to finish the job. On Sunday, it was Holding who stepped up.

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