The Future of Hector Bellerin
By Max Champness
Allow me to cast your mind back to the 2015/16 season. An Arsenal defence consisting of Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesaker, Nacho Monreal and, at the time, 20-year-old Hector Bellerin. Between them, they managed a remarkable 18 clean sheets in the full league season, with the latter proving to be a key part of this new Arsenal back line.
After what many described as the perfect follow up to his breakthrough season the year before, Europe’s elite were chasing at his tail and were left exasperated over Bellerin’s decision to remain in London. However, since that season passed, Hector Bellerin has been rather unlucky. He has suffered from a serious, and long-term, injury and several minor knocks over the recent years. With no other natural right back at the club, we’ve been forced into playing other players out of position. It has become impossible not to pose the question: do we need to sign a new right back?
One thing that cannot be faulted about Hector Bellerin is his love for London and Arsenal. Since arriving in London as a teenager, Bellerin has grown to show his love for the club and connection with its values, elevating him quickly to becoming a fan-favourite. However, his development in the fashion industry, after modelling frequently at numerous events, has caused further concerns for where his loyalties lie; is he one hundred percent focused the playing for Arsenal? Personally I'd say it's unreasonable to suggest this, after all players can have a life outside of football and still be completely committed to their job, but I can understand why people raise this point.
Another key concern among fans is that, due to his frequent injuries, Hector Bellerin has lost several of his most influential attributes: his pace and agility. His pace displayed up and down the Arsenal flank this season is a mere shadow of his former lightning speed. At 25-years-old, you would hope he would be approaching his prime: the pinnacle of his career- staying fit over the course of a season is a large part of what ‘makes or breaks’ a player.
It is widely understood that squad depth, and the competition for a starting place that it can offer, is of great benefit to a team. The signing of a new right back, even just a backup, will force Bellerin into committing more towards his game and ensuring he remains Arteta’s first choice. Furthermore, a new signing would offer cover in the likely event of another injury, meaning our backline would remain complete. Although Cedric was brought in on loan, a player more similar in style to Bellerin, such as Norwich’s Max Aarons, would provide greater cover and competition for the starting spot.
As hard as it is to say, I simply cannot overlook the expansive list of Bellerin’s previous injuries. In culmination with his reduced pace and exterior motives, I believe it’s time we look for a new right-back, who has the ability to start for Arsenal. Despite reported interest from Inter Milan, I would keep Hector Bellerin at the club, with the hope that he can prove his worth and warrant a starting place. An offer of £40 million or over, however, would prove very difficult for the board to refuse. I think, depending on the willingness of other clubs, Bellerin’s future at Arsenal is very much up in the air. The board will have a tough decision to make come the summer: do we prioritise love for the club, or must we think with our heads?