Rob Holding says Laurent Koscielny’s presence made playing in a 3-5-2 formation at Middlesbrough much easier as he also revealed his only previous experience in a three-man defence was an away defeat suffered during his Bolton days against the same opponents.
The England under-21 international, making his 11th appearance of the season, looked calm and composed on the left side of the centre-back trio even though he didn’t know until late that he’d be replacing the injured Shkodran Mustafi.
Reflecting on Monday’s 2-1 win, Holding told Arsenal Player: “Koscielny was the central one, pulling the strings with us both and telling us where to go and that, so with someone like him and his experience it makes it a lot more comfortable.
“I’ve played once before in a back three and it was actually here on my Championship debut with Bolton.
“We lost 3-0 so that was a bit different to this one, but I’ve played in a back three before and you’ve just got to keep working together and communicating and as long as you keep sliding across as a unit then you’re alright.
“We’d done it in the week and then we did it yesterday [Sunday] but I wasn’t in the team and I wasn’t sure if I was playing or not and it wasn’t until today that I found out I was in the back three, so that was good.
“With those two [Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny] alongside you it’s a lot easier.”
It remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger will stick with the formation for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City although the boss hinted it was likely to be more of a short-term move.
“Overall I felt that it worked quite well because we won the game,” he told Arsenal Player after the match.
“We had practiced on it before at some stage, (but) we like offensive football so this was a bit more defensive-minded for us.
“I feel overall it is not a long-term plan, but punctually it can work.”