Ian Wright singled out Arsenal defender Rob Holding for the way in which he stood up to Liverpool star Sadio Mane during the Gunners’ surprise win over the newly crowned champions on Wednesday night.
The Arsenal legend feared the worst after the Senegal international forward fired Jurgen Klopp’s men into a deserved 20th minute lead.
Mikel Arteta’s side, however, mustered a spirited response and benefited from the mistakes of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker to score twice in a 12 minute spell prior to the break.
Shortly before the interval, Holding sent Mane crashing to the turf when the players went shoulder-to-shoulder on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area.
Both men exchanged words after the incident and Wright was delighted to see an Arsenal player show the sort of aggression and force of personality that has been lacking from the recent sides managed by the likes of Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery.
‘Rob Holding for me today I loved the way he stood up to Mane,’ Wright said on Match of the Day.
‘He had a little dig at him there and it’s great to see he stood up and it’s great to see an Arsenal defender showing that kind of fight.’
Wright was less positive about the VAR’s decision not to send off Trent Alexander-Arnold, however, for a reckless challenge on Bukayo Saka, particularly in light of the three-game ban Eddie Nketiah is currently serving for a near identical foul on Leicester’s James Justin a week ago.
Wright added: ‘There’s probably some sort of long-winded reason why that’s not a sending off but Eddie Nketiah’s is.’
Mikel Arteta, meanwhile, was able to celebrate a morale-boosting victory ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against his old club Manchester City, not that Wright envisaged such an outcome following a chastening start to last night’s match.
He said: ‘It was one of those performances that started where you think Liverpool were going to do what Liverpool were going to do. He’s right they were dominant.
‘I was thinking ‘oh my gosh this could be quite embarrassing’ especially when this happens, Mane getting in there, I wanted to cry at that point.
‘It was one of those situations where you think ‘oh know we’re trying to play out and it’s not happening’.’
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