Is Hector Bellerin Arsenal’s Next Great Right Back?


Football is a funny game isn’t it? Last summer we lost our first choice right back to none other than Manchester City. Bad news all around, especially considering it was a player like Sagna who I think all Arsenal fans would admit had a soft spot in their hearts.

Surprisingly though, Arsenal bagged a quality replacement early in the window in the form of the French international, Mathieu Debuchy, from Newcastle. After letting Carl Jenkinson go out on loan to West Ham, the Summer window saw us bring in another defender in Calum Chambers, whose career probably will not pan out at right back, but who has been more than an adequate replacement.

The name Hector Bellerin would likely not have been anywhere near the forefront of most supporters minds, not least because of his most recent loan spell at Championship side Watford, which was rather unconvincing.

Fast forward a couple of months and a couple of injuries to Arsenal’s Champions League opener against Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion and wouldn’t you know it? The young Spaniard, Bellerin, is about to get his trial by fire.

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By all accounts his first competitive start was an absolute catastrophe. The whole team played like absolute rubbish, but he was certainly out of his depth. He made poor decisions watching the ball, didn’t close his man down, and his marking was miserable. It truly looked like a case of a 19 year old being played before he was ready.

Now fast forward to March.

Another unfortunate injury for Debuchy, and Hector Bellerin has been patrolling our right flank for a couple of months, and quite effectively at that.

Our Spanish youngster has been having the praise heaped on him, even by Gary Neville. Arsenal supporters have had the chance to see him blossom into a class right back week after week, and the rest of the league is starting to take notice for good reason. His performance this weekend against Everton was yet another in a string of impressive outings which had both the commentators and myself wondering out loud about his meteoric rise.

Recently, Bellerin has spoken about some of the players who he models his game after saying he studies tape of Manchester City right back Pablo Zabaleta and Barcelona right back Dani Alves; not a bad duo to learn from. Here’s what he had to say (via Squawka).

"“I always try to watch games to review myself, analyse what I’ve done wrong, what I’ve done right and keep doing what I’ve done right…I look at other players in the Premier League because it’s good to look at them and learn from them…I really like players like Pablo Zabaleta, I think he’s a really complete player when he’s attacking and defending…Dani Alves too – they’re the players that I can try to get the techniques and the positioning from.” -Hector Bellerin"

Bellerin certainly has no qualms about getting forward throughout the match, not unlike both Alves and Zabaleta. However cliché or unremarkable these comments may turn out to be, it is comforting nonetheless to hear them.

More seriously though, does Arsene Wenger have a choice to make when Debuchy is once again fully fit? The stats might surprise you. What the numbers below (I included his numbers from his loan spell at Watford last year to show the dramatic progression) seem to say is that this year, Bellerin has been (in my opinion) the better choice. here’s a look at his stats per 90 minutes compared to Debuchy:

[table id=20 /]

He is comparable to or better than Debuchy in nearly every category, especially going forward. I think it would be a poor decision to drop the youngster, not least considering the good league form we are in and even the possibly fragile ego of a fledgling player. I think Wenger should revisit who gets the starts in the summer, but for the time being, let’s ride the Hector train.

On a wider scale, the emergence of Bellerin (and signing of Gabriel) means we are pretty deep in the defensive category now, something only a month and a half ago didn’t seem to be the case. Look at the graphic below. Every one of those players is class, and yes I kept Per Mertesacker in the starting lineup for now.

Additionally, and probably sadly, this spells the end of Carl Jenkinson’s Arsenal career. He has been a player that has performed fairly well over the years and while he will likely never be skillful enough to be first choice, I like him as backup.

I’ll never forget how he absolutely torched Aleksandar Kolarov and Joleon Lescott all day at the Etihad a couple of years ago. Jenko has been an Arsenal supporter his whole life and I’ll always have a special place for those players in my heart (except for you, Ashley Cole).

Anyhow, it is yet another difficult choice for Wenger to make, a recent trend which is encouraging to see. I for one, still have faith in the boss and believe he’ll make the right choice.

Regardless it is nice to see a young lad come through the ranks and even better when it’s at the speed with which Bellerin is progressing at now.  Hopefully he can continue to grow under the watchful eyes of Arsene Wenger.

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