It was always going to happen.

Sitting pretty at the top of the table going into the international break, we hoped and prayed our players would return to the Arsenal fold in one piece as they go through the demands of two competitive international games.

The club were also apparently in the same frame of mind as they sent a club physio with Thomas Partey to ensure he came back in decent condition.

But William Saliba didn’t join up with his French compatriots. Nope, his injury was sustained prior to our previous win and it seems the prognosis for the Frenchman’s injury isn’t as sunny as we had hoped.

If we consult the various news sources for scant news on Saliba, it would appear as though Saliba is likely to miss more than a few games with his back injury.

And his displays this season have been the main reason why so many of us are worried we will suffer in what is the most important final stage of a domestic season for us in quite some time.

The question remains – is Rob Holding up to the task?

Bobbi Holding and Gabriel on the pitch

The bargain from Bolton has had his excellent moments in an Arsenal shirt. His bossing of Diego Costa in the FA Cup Final win will always be fondly remembered.

But the mark of the player is that despite the mass clearout over the last 2-3 years, Bobby Holding has remained.

If he wasn’t up to scratch, he would’ve been shown where the door is.

Holding is dependable. His cameos this season have heralded the return of three points on most occasions. He marshals the line well and is no slouch – although compared to Gabriel and Saliba, he is the slower of the three by far.

Let’s check the stats.

Before the international break, the man known as ‘Holdinho’ had only been involved in one Premier League game from the start. In contrast, Holding had started seven games in the Europa League.

But the bottom line is that Holding has stepped in whenever he has been needed this season – and hasn’t put a foot wrong.

A full season would always test the seams of a squad. We were going to get injuries and Holding was deemed to be ample backup to our first choice pairing.

We need to trust that Arteta was right in his judgement. Saliba may need to be nursed through the run-in – and having a player ready to step up when the situation arises is what most clubs dream of.

Holding may not have the ability to play out from the back like Saliba or Gabriel, but defensively, he can hold his own – which is the raison d’etre. Anything else, we need to adapt. Perhaps Xhaka or Partey will be tasked with the first sparks of attack when Saliba doesn’t play? Maybe Zinchenko drops back a bit and links more between defence and attack?

If we get through unscathed and lift the title, then Holding should get a special mention for how he has handled himself and how professional he has been – not to mention helping us over the line.

We’ll obviously miss Saliba – but Holding has what it takes to keep our defence in shape.