Arriving alongside Jon Toral in the summer of the 2011/12 season, Hector Bellerin’s transfer to Arsenal was a largely under-the-radar affair. There was little fan-fare, apart from the fact that Arsenal had managed to pinch two more players from Barcelona’s youth setup for a combined fee of under £1 million. He signed his first professional contract with Arsenal two years later in the summer of 2013, making his first appearance as a late substitute in a League Cup tie against West Brom.
He was sent out on loan to Watford during most of the 2013/14 season, where he played in more of a right-wing position than the right-back position we associate him with now. After earning several good reviews for his performances with the Hornets, he was recalled from his loan in February to begin training with the first team.
Fast forward to last season, due to injuries to the first team full-backs in Debuchy, Monreal and Chambers – Hector Bellerin was called upon to play against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. He was given a torrid time in a 2-0 defeat at the Westfalonstadion, and many Arsenal fans questioned if he had the capability to play at the top level. By the end of the season however, having many 28 appearances in all competitions – those Arsenal fans were now asking the question, would Debuchy be able to displace Bellerin from the first-choice starting eleven?
Taking a look at Bellerin this season, now as he has been accepted as Arsenal’s first choice right-back, compared to his peers with the help of Squawka.com, you see that he could be considered to be best in his role. If you look at the attributes you would expect of a full-back, Bellerin is clearly ahead of all of his peers this season. Very much suited to Arsenal’s attacking play, but Bellerin also has the state of mind required to be in the right place at the right time to make a defensive contribution.
Averaging two tackles and interceptions per game according to Whoscored.com, whilst committing 0.2 fouls per game. Bellerin has shown an aptitude for the rough and tumble of the Premier League, despite fears over his size and slight build. This season he has grown, like many Arsenal players in the last couple of years, to have a slim, wiry build that is deceptively strong. He has already this season bested Eden Hazard in the Community Shield, and from the Premier League, you can count Memphis Depay, Riyad Mahrez, Yannick Bolasie and Georginio Wijnaldum as well-handled by the diminutive Spaniard.
Having only played once so far in the dismal Champions League campaign, in the 2-3 loss to Olympiakos – it’s hard to quantify his ability against European competition so far, but with back-to-back games against Bayern Munich coming up – Bellerin will be expected to bring his Premier League form to the table. How easy that will be, against an electrifying Douglas Costa – we’ll have to see.
Alongside Francis Coquelin, Hector Bellerin has emerged in the past year to be an integral part of this potentially title-challenging Arsenal side. His well-documented pace, paired with ability on the ball that one can only attribute to a marriage of his Barcelona beginnings and Arsenal tutelage – mean that rumours of a return to his roots can’t be far off once Barcelona’s transfer ban is lifted. With their very obvious lack of depth and Dani Alves’s aging legs – it would be a move that made sense. Whether he would want to leave, and whether Arsenal would let him are other things entirely. If Arsenal are to be true title-challengers for the Premier League this season and in the future – Hector Bellerin needs to be a regular feature.