Why Arsenal should not sell Hector Bellerin this Summer
By Allan Riley
Long-standing full-back Hector Bellerin has recently been linked with moves to European giants Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus. According to many reliable sources, Arsenal will reportedly accept a suitably-sized bid, however much that may be. If rumours are to be believed, this is in order to raise funds for our moves for Houssem Aouar and Thomas Partey. While the idea has good intentions behind it from Arsenal, it has split the club’s fanbase right down the middle.
There are gooners who are celebrating this news. Others believe we’ll live to regret such a decision. Personally, I’m sitting somewhat on the fence on the Bellerin news. The potential sale of the Spaniard has both positives and negatives to it; but is it a smart sale from the club?
Looking at it from a financial perspective, probably yes. If Arsenal are holding out for a relatively large transfer fee, something they are in the position to do, it’s a good deal. A “relatively large” fee is probably around £35-£40 million, something these clubs should be able to afford, so it’s plausible we can attain something in this region for the Spaniard.
If Arsenal were to receive that much for Bellerin, it could fund either a move for Aouar or Partey, seemingly the club’s two biggest remaining priorities in the transfer market. Selling in an area we’re well stocked in to finance reinforcements in areas we’re not in huge supply of options makes sense, particularly in a major rebuild. However, that’s where the benefits seemingly end.
Footballing-wise, Bellerin is a controversial figure. After his blistering form in the earlier stages in his career, culminating in promotions to the Spanish national team and a place in the PFA’s Team of the Season in 2015/16, Bellerin has split opinion. Now, the Spaniard has returned from an ACL injury sustained in the 18/19 season and while he did show glimpses of his former self towards the latter stages of last season, Bellerin has looked clumsy on the ball, slower and has struggled in an attacking sense. However, this doesn’t mean he’s a bad player all of a sudden, it just shows the 25-year-old is yet to fully recover from his devastating ACL tear. It’s said it can take upwards of two years to recover from such an injury.
If Bellerin were to move to one of Europe’s elite, there’s every chance he could blossom into one of the best right-backs on the continent. It could very well end up being another Serge Gnabry situation, albeit slightly different in that we did indeed get a lot out of him and a lot of money. Arsenal would regret it, should that pan out.
The discussion then moves to who within the club could replace Bellerin. The current two options, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Cedric Soares, are the obvious candidates. However, both have problems attached to them.
With Cedric, it’s simple. He just isn’t good enough to be our first choice right-back. A fully-fit Bellerin is twice the player the Portuguese international currently is, which just makes the decision to give Cedric a 4-year-deal all the more baffling. His crossing and output in the final third is poor, he’s not great in possession and he defensively relies heavily on positioning rather than any recovery pace. Maitland-Niles’ situation, on the other hand, is much more complex.
The newly-minted England international is a good wing-back. While it’s very likely that Arsenal will carry their 3-4-3 formation into the new season, Mikel Arteta very obviously wants to transition to a back four at some point. That’s where problems arise. Despite flourishing at times in back four, Maitland-Niles ultimately remains unproven in terms of performing consistently at right-back over a prolonged period of time. Similarly to Emi Martinez, a relatively small sample size makes it a bit of risk pinning first choice responsibility onto him.
Another potential negative of selling Bellerin is the loss of the intangible effects he has off the pitch with his character. Having been at the club since 2011, he understands what it means to be an Arsenal player and he’s also developed into something of a leader off the pitch. Whether it’s his mentoring of young foreign players coming through at the club or taking the lead in the pay cut negotiations, his influence on the dressing room cannot be understated and would undoubtedly be missed if he was to depart. Would we be allowing a potential future captain to leave?
Having weighed up both pros and cons, for me, we shouldn’t sell Bellerin. With Maitland-Niles still a risk, it’s very possible we’d find ourselves splashing out on a new top quality right-back in January or next summer to fill his void if the risk does not pay off. This would essentially negate this initial decision to sell him, which is to free up money for central midfielders. So, before you’re so quick to jump on the Bellerin sale train, just take a moment to reflect on whether this would really be a good decision.