At Arsenal, we rarely have too much of a good thing.
There was Alexis Sanchez, but there was Alex Iwobi. There was Laurent Koscielny, but there was Sébastien Squillaci. There was Robin van Persie, but there was Marouane Chamakh. Arsenal haven’t boasted a wealth of quality in one area all too often lately.
One excellent player, backed up by or flanking someone considerably less…good.
Nacho Monreal was a solid enough left-back on his day, but he used line up with Carl Jenkinson on the opposing side. Indeed, never too much of a good thing.
And on the topic of full-backs, it’s been roughly a decade since neither player in the starting lineup made us feel anxious. Gael Clichy did split the fanbase, Bacary Sagna too, but in their prime they were two dependable Frenchmen who were reliable options that invariably produced below average performances.
In the eight years that Hector Bellerin has been at the club, only fleeting periods of form have seen him blanketed under similar praise. And even when he was playing well, his opposite number wasn’t.
The Spaniard has never played this well, though. A different role to the one he’s operated in previously, in a system that’s plays to his strengths, he’s in the form of his life. This time, however, his tucked-in teammate is following suit.
Kieran Tierney won over supporters off the pitch before he’d even kicked a ball. Rocking shorts and a t-shirt in the pouring British rain and carrying his matchday essentials in a carrier bag being just two of endearing aspects of his manner that differ from the usual, pampered footballer outlook.
He’s also been bloody fantastic on the pitch. Both of them have.
A wicked crosser of the ball and astute in his defensive qualities, he is the embodiment of the more classic era of full-back: quick off the mark and industrious, but strong in the challenge and an evident lover of actually defending. Throw in a few modern ingredients like intelligent running in forward areas, and you’ve got close to the full package.
Likewise, Bellerin has never been more tactically sound, nimble on the ball or varied in his movements. It’s one of those scratch your eyes moments. Arsenal have two, yes, two exceptional full-backs. Already outperforming those of the last decade, they’re well on course to surpass those even before them.