Hector Bellerin: An Honest Assessment
By Rob Worthington (Senior Writer)
Hector Bellerìn has got to be one of the most divisive characters at Arsenal Football Club right now. Some fans adore everything about him and believe he is the long-term solution on the right-hand-side of Arsenal’s defence while others straightforwardly don’t believe he’s good enough for Arsenal.
What cannot be denied is that Bellerìn hasn’t been the same player since he ruptured his cruciate ligament in late January 2019. He’s lost a touch of pace and regularly looks uncomfortable defending 1v1.
However, those supportive of the Spaniard suggest he makes up for these deficiencies with his strengths in other areas of his game. For example, his ability to pick out an eye-of-the-needle pass and his intelligent offensive movement. Not many full backs are better at peeling off the back of an opposition defence than Bellerìn.
This raises two important questions. Are those critical of Bellerìn too harsh on him? Or, are those who staunchly back him assessing him too generously?
The answer is a bit of both. The same can be said for the situations of numerous players in our squad. Football fans like some players, and dislike others. Right now, even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s situation is similar to that of Bellerìn’s.
Nevertheless, it is clear to see why some fans are critical of the right-back. In 11 Premier League appearances, Bellerìn has given the ball away 97 times, meaning on average he’s been culpable for just under 9 possession losses/90 this season. Furthermore, he’s completed just 23.5% of his attempted tackles this season.
These statistics are representative of a clumsiness which has creeped into Bellerìn’s game since his injury return. His regular silly-mistakes make him one of the most frustrating Arsenal players to watch. That frustration is only exacerbated by the consistent foul throw-ins…
Perhaps these frustrating aspects of his game tarnish a fans’ view of the things Bellerìn does well. After all, in a team void of creativity, Bellerìn is a player in the form of a rare creative beacon. He’s been responsible for 4 goal-creating actions in the Premier League this season and has registered the team’s third highest xA/90 total at 0.12. The goal-creating stat becomes all the more impressive when you take into consideration Arsenal have only scored 10 league goals this season.
Those playing in and around Hector Bellerín must also be considered. Alongside him in defence, the Spaniard usually has Rob Holding, who is equally poor at defending 1v1 and also rather immobile. His lack of ability to cover for Bellerin tends to expose the right-back’s weaknesses.
Additionally, the midfielder closest to him is Dani Ceballos, whose defensive capabilities are nothing to write home about. A year down the line, with Thomas Partey sitting in front of him and William Saliba offering protection in behind him, Hector Bellerin could look a much, much better player.
That’s not to say Bellerìn can sit back and relax for the time being. Doubtless, he knows he needs to up his game. The clumsy aspects of his game need to be eradicated as soon as possible and a bit more precision from him offensively needs to be introduced. If he adequately addresses these issues, there is no reason why Bellerìn wouldn’t be able to nail down a starting birth at Arsenal for years to come.