Tag Archives: bellerin

O Captain, My Captain

The game has changed massively over the years. In fact, blink and the version your eyes see will be different to the one pre-blink.

Perhaps not, but season after season changes the sport we all enjoy. Just look at this latest incarnation of the Premier League. VAR has transformed how we view all instances, and even how we celebrate goals, a hush falls over player and fan alike as we wait for the permission to celebrate or commiserate.

Surely though, the values that embody a captain of a football club haven’t changed, have they?

Maybe they have. As the sport changes, does a role within a team have to change? Take a midfielder for instance. It used to be that a man in the centre didn’t have to be a presence in both areas of the pitch and have a skillset reminiscent of an elaborate Swiss Army Knife.

There are still roles on the pitch that demand a very ‘boxed-in’ set of talents, but as the pace in the Premier League speeds up and the technical quality increases exponentially, it means players must rise with it, or fear being left by the wayside and plying their trade in the lower leagues.

A captain though, what does it mean to lead the team out week on week?

That is how you pick the right man for the job. The Skipper predominantly is the middle man between the manager and the team on the pitch. Relaying dynamic instructions from the sidelines, and picking up when those instructions slip.

The man wearing the armband is also the mouth for the team, when decisions require a quick convo with the man in black he is the one who must offer his side’s argument, or try and appease the ref if he is thinking of reaching into his pocket.

Both require a cool head, a temperament that can remain literate even when the red mists have descended.

So, from our pool of five captains, do any of them tick these boxes?

The first choice who will be the skipper for the majority would have been Granit Xhaka – before Monday’s events.

Xhaka Capt

This has been a major point of consternation in our fanbase. The Swiss man divides opinion in a big way, and his high profile errors have stained his copybook with many. Can a player who is letting the side down, then expect to pick up his teammates and squeeze out an extra five percent of effort from them?

Alternatively, Xhaka is one of the few players we have that does attempt to keep his teammates on their toes. After we score, you often see Xhaka point to his head in an attempt to show his comrades that THIS is the time that demands concentration.

It would be good if he could take his advice of course…

You need the man wearing the armband to be the arm round the shoulder in times of crisis or duress. You need the skipper to be the man stepping up when his men need them to. The old-school version of a skipper may well be a thing of the past, but some of the attributes are still highly relevant.

His actions after being booed now mean that we need someone else to stand up. His tenure with the armband is over, his temperament is not suited to lead the team.

We do have some prime candidates for the armband, such as Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding. These boys seem to be well stocked in heart and cold hard sense when it matters most, but is it too soon to name players of their age?

No, not really.

Because there is one facet of wearing the armband that is more important than anything else. We have had captains that have lacked it and the results were expectedly poor.

A captain should above all else, love the club that they represent. They should see the captaincy as a privilege.

Can we say that about Xhaka?

Because we can certainly say that about Bellerin.

What do you think?

Missing Personnel – Do We Finally Have Squad Depth?

Our summer transfer activity rightfully created a buzz for this season.

After having our optimism dampened by continuous articles surrounding our meagre budget, the players captured by the club – with some help by our impressive backroom team – were enough to lift the spirits and the hope around our fanbase.

Not easy to do after the way last season ended.

The season has now been underway for a fair amount of time, and results have been decent, but not mindblowing, but it’s easy to forget that we are still operating at less than full capacity.

None of our rivals have our problem. The majority of their key players are in the team and slowly wearing away their ring rust. Us? We’ve missed an entire defence.

The backline is conspicuously our weak link. Our midfield can adapt with the personnel to combat different threats, and our frontline is amongst the most potent in the league.

Our four (or five dependant on the approach taken by Unai Emery) has been in dire need of reinforcements and is operating without definite first choice personnel.

With Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney all absent through injury, we have no doubt been hampered – and who else could claim otherwise? Even the likes of Man City would find room for at least Hector Bellerin. Pep is well known for his love of a roving wing-back – and Bellerin certainly fits that bill.

Holding and Bellerin

The players who have come in to fill the void have done admirably. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has shown he is a worthy member of our squad who has plenty in his locker. The combination of Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac have both played at left-back but with Monreal now at Real Socidead, it leaves the attacking Kolasinac as our only recognised left-sided player – meaning Tierney’s return can’t come soon enough.

Then there is our centre-back predicament. Our club captain Koscielny has now left the club, we have future prospect William Saliba back at St Etienne and we couldn’t manage to sell Shkodran Mustafi for love nor money.

It has left us with the granite-tough Sokratis, the returning from loan Chambers and new boy David Luiz.

This isn’t the worst talent pool we have had to pick from in recent years, but when you recall how Holding was performing before his long-term injury struck him down – and how quickly he had adapted to Emery’s tactical changes – it shows that not only will he most likely find himself straight back in the team when he finds his feet – but how badly we miss him.

Could other teams cope with missing three of their first choice defenders?

Could Liverpool manage without Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold?

What about City and Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker and Zinchenko?

One at a time, maybe two at most, but all three?

We have been unable to push forward with our plans at the speed we should be. Unai Emery must be commended with coping without this talented trio and keeping us competitive and at the fighting end. It would be easy to stumble and drop points like it was going out of fashion, but it is noticeable that we have not needed to point at our missing players. We’ve simply got on with things and earned results when we’ve needed to.

Of course, our attack has bailed us out at times, but isn’t it testament to our squad depth that we are where we are, without three of our first choice defenders?

For the first time in countless seasons, we now have the substance in our squad pool to contend with the numerous injuries that befall an Arsenal squad. We now have ample cover and players who are malleable enough to mould themselves how Emery requires them.

It will take a few months until we see the best of Holding, Bellerin and Tierney. When they are fit though, we have a first eleven to challenge for honours.

I mean, just look at how well we’ve done without them…

Bellerin For Captain?

Last season saw plenty of changes in what was Unai Emery’s first season in charge.

We saw the constant switching between three and five at the back. We saw the first eleven tinkered with in order to find that special slice of chemistry. We saw our press activate and disengage within minutes.

All signs of a fledgling regime, but another change was very much up for questioning.

The decision to grant the captains armband to Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil was examined closely by all and sundry. With Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech missing out on chunks of the season through injury and selection reasons, it left three men leading the team out for the majority.

Granit Xhaka, love him or loath him, is one of the few who show true leadership qualities on the field and warranted the captaincy, and Aaron Ramsey’s association with the club was a lengthy one and he held the respect of his teammates.

Mesut Ozil perhaps was awarded the armband on occasion to give him the confidence he desired, a clear signal of intent that he was needed and had a specific role to play. Lead by example, show the others what they need to do.

Did the decision to split captaincy responsibilities work?

That depends who you ask, but it could be a work in progress.

What about next season though?

With both Cech and Ramsey both having left the club, it leaves three from last season who wore the armband.

When you take into consideration that official club captain Laurent Koscielny has gone on strike to engineer a move away from Arsenal?

That whittles it down to two.

Mesut Ozil is not a typical captain, but will command the respect from his comrades, but are there others who would be leaders and could help elevate performance with their own take on what captains should do on the pitch.

One candidate who has been spoken about at length is Hector Bellerin.

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The Spaniard has been with the club since 2013 and counts as a homegrown player. His affection for the club is evident through his social media activity and his desire on and off the pitch has driven him to great things.

Just look at how he took to Emery’s new regime at the start, before his horror injury. He was one of the standout performers, one that took his game to the next level. He was a massive threat up top, facilitating our attackers, and his defensive side had tightened considerably.

He could command the eleven and ensure instructions are carried out. He is the ideal middle man, a conduit between Emery and his men.

Bellerin is due to return from injury early in the season, and stands alone in regard to the right-back spot. Maitland-Niles did an admirable job last season filling in and has done his future at the club no harm whatsoever, but Bellerin will no doubt pick up where he left off.

Sokratis is another player who could lead the players, but in terms of style, it would be a more vocal approach from the Greek – and Bellerin has plenty of years in the tank yet to push his legacy at the club. Sokratis is more of a short-term fillip we need to hold our defence together.

Hector’s values align with our own, he is progressive and he wants the club to achieve – he cares. Isn’t that fundamentally what pushes all captains?

Bellerin is one of the few players who is intrinsically linked with the fibre of the club woven deep. He will wear the armband with pride and rightfully so. He will deserve it. Age is just  a number, Bellerin has earned the shot to lead the team out – and it could be a masterstroke.

Hector On The Rise

Hector Bellerin is far more effective than people give him credit for.

The Spaniard wasn’t the only one to fail to reach their best last season, as the wheels came off in what was Wenger’s final season.

Yet, the defender was labelled as a poor defender, a liability. Bellerin had hit the wall, he wouldn’t progress further.

This season, under new boss Unai Emery, Bellerin has risen to the occasion and played out of his skin thus far, in both defence and attack. Despite this, Bellerin has still had his critics, throwing the same barbs as before.

What isn’t highlighted, is that Bellerin is doing the work of two men, and performing near-miracles on the right hand side.

Unai Emery seems to prefer a 4-2-3-1, but has shown he can vary his approach. His favoured formation though, is leaving Bellerin wide open to salvo’s from the opposition, yet the Spanish defender is on the money and giving everything to keep the leaks to a bare minimum.

With the new regime, we are obviously suffering some teething problems at the back. Playing out from deep, in the face of an effective press, will require more practice and time. The new instructions and pairings are gelling together slowly but surely.

So a drought of clean sheets is to be expected. However, if it wasn’t for the engine of Bellerin and his vastly improving defensive skills, we would have conceded far more – and scored a fair amount less too.

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Our manbun-sporting defender has been a huge asset in our attack, linking up at nearly every opportunity with our attacking quartet. He is grabbing assists and more often than not, testing the opposition keeper every game.

If you check social media or newspaper ratings though, you could be forgiven for thinking you watched the wrong player. A raft of 5’s and 6’s, labelled weak in defence, Bellerin apparently can’t escape the mediocre tag even when he’s playing well.

There is a lot of focus on Bellerin simply because there is a lot of possession going down his side, and with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey and/or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bellerin is receiving zero cover.

Considering Bellerin is defending his entire flank by himself, it means that his forays forward need to be timed better than ever, otherwise he will – and the team will – be horribly exposed. So for Bellerin to have his best start to a season as an attacking player is evidence that he is using his footballing brain – he has evolved.

He is doing double the work, and is having his most effective season thus far. It is easy to forget he is still only 23. Ask any other right-back in the Premier League to put in his miles, make as much impact in the attacking third and also keep it as tight as he has?

I am convinced that none of his positional cohorts could manage what he has done.

Is it the arrival of an established rival that has pushed him on? In Stephane Lichtsteiner, Bellerin has massive pressure to keep his performances optimal, as he will be well aware that Lichtsteiner can stepin and keep him on the bench for an extended time.

Perhaps it is the threat of losing his place, maybe it is the fact he is learning and simply improving.

Either way, we have a right-back that is one of the best at both ends of the pitch – no matter what experts and some fans say.

Selling Bellerin to Solve Our Defensive Woes?

This season has been a calamitous one at best.

Our Premier League campaign is the worst we’ve had under Arsene Wenger, and we’re set for the lowest finishing position in his tenure.
It all points to a manager that has lost his grip on what it takes at the cutting edge of the game, and a squad that quite clearly needs a drastic overhaul.

But does it? Or is the fault mainly in our defence that is as porous as a sponge?
Well, our attack is as potent as Tottenham’s, United’s and Chelsea’s in terms of goals scored, and we have proven world class talent in the form of Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

Our defence however, is a different story.

We have conceded more goals than the rest of the teams in the top 7, this is the reason that as of 15/04/18, we had lost exactly one third of our total league games this season – and owned the worst away record of ANY team in the top 4 leagues in England.

Our best defenders are Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal. Both are the wrong side of thirty and Koscielny suffers from chronic tendonitis. There is only one way for them to go from here.

We do have an answer though.

Hector Bellerin to Barca?

Hector Bellerin is 23 and the Catalan-born defender is under contract until 2022. It is common knowledge that he isn’t short of admirers. His price tag would be a handsome one.

If we did dispense of his services, with whatever funds are currently at our disposal, we could add to it with a rather tidy sum and it could replenish our depleted numbers.

With the World Cup, most transfer fees will be grossly inflated, and we could really do with a few extra pennies to spend, as our backline isn’t merely on its last legs, it really needs a new foundation.

Rob Holding and Calum Chambers have shown enough to merit some faith in their future and with more games, they will improve. Shkodran Mustafi has been a failed purchase thus far, and Per Mertesacker is retiring. We need at least three new faces in defence, and they can’t be works in progress either – they will need to be established players who have top-flight experience.

Hector Bellerin has not exactly been fantastic this season. In attack he is a great outlet, but defensively, he hasn’t improved since his first full season. The Spaniard is still making mistakes with the timing of his forward runs and he is still beaten a little too easily when one on one.

Plus, we’ve now got a ready-made replacement in Stefan Lichtsteiner.

Should Barcelona come in with a £50m bid, would we be fools not to take it? Of course we wouldn’t. We’d be retaining a player with bags of talent that could vastly improve. If we sold him though, and we actually invested the money? It could be the reinvention our defence sorely needs.

Next season the competition will only get tougher, and with the gap between us and the top 6 stretching, it’s time to stop what we’re doing and change things up – what we’ve been doing isn’t working and at the root of this – Wenger aside – is our defence.

One player sold, and we could solve so many of our problems. Let’s face it, Hector will be going to Barca in 2-3 seasons maximum anyway.

Shouldn’t we cash in?

What would you do? Would you sell Bellerin?

Arsenal Vs AC Milan – Europa League 2nd Leg Preview

Our 2-0 win last week over AC Milan has given Arsenal a great chance of progressing to the Quarter-Finals of the Europa League, as we welcome the Italians to The Emirates for the return leg.

The two goal advantage may well put us firmly in the driving seat, but Gennaro Gattuso brings his side to London knowing they must score goals, and they have nothing to lose.

This makes this tie dangerous, as we must decide whether we go for the quick kill and score a goal that will leave Milan needing three goals to progress – or do we choose to soak up the pressure and use our intuitive players like Mkhitaryan and Ozil to spark counter-attacks on a Milan defence that will push up.

It’s a decision that will decide the outcome of this two-legged affair, and we will need every bit of what we showed in the first leg to make sure of our passage to the last8.

Milan will no doubt name Suso, Cutrone, Bonaventura and Calhanoglu in their forward line, and it was the Turkish forward who could have made this second leg a far tighter affair had he taken advantage of two gilt-edged chances. The first especially, which was a minute before Mkhitaryan gave us the lead, would have given his side the lead, but Ospina denied him, and came close to conceding a penalty in the process.

It is these minute details that games are decided, and we must be switched on to deny the away side any hope on Thursday evening.

That will require a steady backline, something of a rarity, aside from our last two games. Laurent Koscielny should be fit, and will partner a far steadier Shkodran Mustafi in defence. It is Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal that are the doubts, and Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac will be in the side should they fall short of fitness.

Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey look set to continue in central midfield. Ramsey was rested for the weekend win over Watford, but both were superb in controlling Milan’s midfield and roving forward. Mohamed Elneny was effective versus Watford and could be an option should we look to shore things up.

Our attack is limited, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Alexandre Lacazette still injured, although the Frenchman should be fit after the international break that occurs after this game for two weeks. It means Danny Welbeck will lead the line again, and the striker was great in last week’s win. Eddie Nketiah will be the backup option from the bench.

We can go all out for this game, knowing there will be no crucial Premier League game this weekend. We will need the same outlook and positivity we employed in the first leg – if we can do that, then we should have our name in the hat for the next round.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Wilshere, Welbeck

Predicted Scoreline – 1-1 #UTA

Arsenal Vs Watford PL Preview

Kickoff – 1330GMT

The first steps have been made in forgetting the awful form we’ve had recently, with our impressive 2-0 win against Milan in the San Siro, now we take on Watford in a bid to arrest our slide away from the top4.

This is looking to be an insurmountable task. Our neighbours sit in 4th spot, a massive 13 points better off than we are, with only 27 points left to play for. In realistic terms, we need to win our remaining games, and hope tottenham or Liverpool implode in order to sneak into the coveted Champions League spots.

Before we even begin to think about the implications of such an elaborate plan, we need to win a bloody game domestically first. That starts against the Hornets.

Watford have enjoyed a good recent run against us, beating us the last time we played at The Emirates. We also had the Troy Deeney episode, where the burly striker claimed it was our lack of – for want of a less savoury term – Jacobs, that meant we were easily steamrollered, rather than contentious decisions.

With this season going the way it is, Deeney is looking like he could be right, but we have a chance to right a wrong here too.

Watford’s new boss Javi Gracia is still seeking to find his best layout for his team, especially defensively. They won their last game, 1-0 against bottom side West Brom, but they were far from convincing. Indeed, before Deeney struck the sole goal of the game, West Brom could easily have been ahead. It is evident that the Hornets are far stronger in attack than in being watertight at the back, and if that lends itself to an open game, it also increases our chances too.

We’ll have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back after being cup-tied for the Europa League, and with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil looking to have found some form in our win over Milan, we could stretch Watford thinly across The Emirates turf. Alex Iwobi could come back into the side to rest Jack Wilshere, as Arsene Wenger will be loath to upset a winning side for the return leg on Thursday.

Granit Xhaka has played a large amount of consecutive games, but Aaron Ramsey is just coming back from injury, so it is tough to call which player will be rested, with Mohamed Elneny most likely coming in to replace. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is an outside call for a midfield spot too.

Our Spaniards, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal, both missed out the trip to Milan, and both are outside bets to make this game, with Bellerin a little more likely to return, given his less severe complaint. Laurent Koscielny could be rested too, but his performance against Milan’s attack spoke of a man returning to some form. Rob Holding stands by.

Watford boss Javi Gracia has an embarrassment of riches in attack. Troy Deeney will most likely lead the line, but Stefano Okaka and Andre Gray are both excellent options. Ricardo Peyreyra, Richarlison, Carillo and even Abdoulaye Doucoure are all threats from their respective positions too. If they want to funnel play wide and isolate our full-backs, they’ve got the personnel to do so. We’ve got to be switched on at the back.

This is something that’s been bereft in our play, minus our showing on Thursday. Jack Wilshere talked in the media about using the Milan performance as a barometer, that we must play like this every game. He’s spot on. We need that level, as we’ve shown that when we dip, we can’t skate by and pick up points.

So, let’s get another win and attempt to string together a run that we so badly need toward the end of the season. Redeem yourselves boys – oh yeah, and try and get Cech his 200th clean sheet? It’s been dragging on for far too long! #UTA

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Chambers, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Elneny, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal

Arsenal 3-1 FC Koln – Away Fans, Howlers and Alexis is Back

An hours delay is not the best start to a game in a competition most deride as superfluous. 

Someone said that to David Ospina, and the Colombian decided he would try and beat it.

Thanks to masses of Koln fans making the trip to London without a ticket and trying to cram into the Clock End – and succeeding to a degree – it meant that safety was compromised and kickoff could not take place until 2105hrs – over an hour after it was designated.

Still, when our fans did all manage to take their seats, they were treated to the sight of our goalkeeper going a little unhinged and allowing the equally crazed Koln fans the opportunity to make more noise and set off more flares.

Our Cup Keeper raced out of his box to snaffle up a ball over the top of our defence. The problem wans’t that he didn’t get to it first. Oh no, Ospina was the proverbial greyhound. No, the problem was what he did when he got the ball.

The South American goalkeeper booted it flatly and straight to the opposition, and Ospina’s fellow countryman Cordoba lifted it over our keeper who was in No Man”s Land from all of 40 yards. 

1-0, and the first half was now a chase.

We did make chances when we were not busy wasting the opportunity for a final ball, but Koln’s Timo Horn was equal to Olivier Giroud’s header, and Theo Walcott wasted a good chance when found in a good position.

The first half was frustrating, and the boos that followed our players trudging off the pitch were born from a performance that was quite flat at times.

The second half was different though. With a much changed side, we began to find our verve, and it took five minutes to get the equaliser. 

Theo Walcott was at the centre of the action, and his finishing may have been wayward, but his positioning and running could not be faulted. He was found with a superb ball from Mohamed Elneny, and his touch took him wide. His cross was deflected upwards, and the rampaging bull that is Sead Kolasinac took just one touch to lash a volley past the Koln keeper Timo Horn.

From there, it was all Arsenal, and we were looking fully intent on getting the win, as opposed to the first half when there was just vague interest. 

Then, there was a sight to behold for all Gooners to rejoice in. Something that has the potential to change our season dramatically.

It wasn’t Jack Wilshere making an appearance, although he could make a huge dent.

It was the return of Alexis.

Sure, he has made appearances this season, but the goal he scored in this game was pure Chilean spice.

Taking the ball from out wide, he drifted inside, beat two players and from 25 yards, curled an exquisite effort into the top corner, where no goalkeeper’s fingers dare to tread. It was beautiful, it was Alexis.

Whilst he may still want to leave, my love for him will be compromised. However, I say we play him until his legs fall off. Make use of him in the short space of time we have him. 

There was time for one more goal, and it was Hector Bellerin who scored it. Theo Walcott was again involved. Alexis and Big Sead interchanged well, and the Bosnian crossed in. Jack Wilshere dummied it and left it for Theo who took a shot which Horn saved well. The rebound though, fell for the onrushing Bellerin who did manage to beat the German.

A job well done, and the Europa League has been started well. We can really make a go of this competition and it was a big plus that we fought back against a team who were better than their domestic form suggested.

Not only that, our team was massively different than the one we saw last weekend – and very different to the one that will line up against Chelsea this Sunday. 

The way we deal with the short recovery time will be crucial, but we have good form against the Blues recently. Time to convert that to a performance away from home for once. 

Bellerin To Leave In Summer?

When a player makes the grade and comes through the youth ranks at the club, the ties which bind them to the club are stronger.

The fanbase especially, share an affinity with this talented youngster. They see them as one of them. This starlet has fought through all the barriers and long odds which face any fresh-faced hopeful, and every time they pull on the shirt, it is a victory and something to cherish for the adoring support in the stands.

Hector Bellerin is one of those who the fans adore. From his baptism of fire in a Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund in 2014 through to the present day, the floppy-haired defender has risen to every challenge he has faced.

His beginnings in the first team were borne from necessity. Our squad had been ravaged thanks to an annual injury crisis which Arsenal Football Club seem to have inflicted upon them without remorse. Hector had been pulling up trees for the reserves, and his sporadic appearances on the Arsenal bench were a signal that the Spaniard was on the cusp of a breakthrough.

The match that marked his debut was one to forget, as Dortmund’s intricate teamplay and movement were a living nightmare for every Gunner on the pitch. It ended in a well-deserved defeat for Arsenal, and Bellerin was mercilessly handed a reminder of the significant step up from what he had been doing, to what he actually required.

The transformation from this bamboozled youngster into the player we have on our hands now is startling. His rise has seen off established international rivals for his spot. His rapier runs forward have allowed his team a lifesaving pressure valve. His pace has been the inflatable ring that has been chucked into choppy waters when all around him are floundering.

In short, Bellerin has shown his impressive talents in all aspects of his role. He is a modern day full-back that is improving with every season. His full-bodied flavour has not risen to the palatte yet, but thanks to his age, we have many years to wait before his full potential is realised. 

Or do we? 

Revista De La Liga and their newspaper column at the end of the show report that Bellerin is interesting his home club, and that the Catalans refuse to rule out a move for our man. Guillame Balague, the Spanish presenter and self-proclaimed expert of Spanish football, went as far as to confirm that talks had taken place between the two clubs, although these were only tentative enquiries.

Tentative they may be, but as Arsenal fans, we are painfully aware of how this goes when Barca come sniffing around our key personnel. We have seen this horror movie countless times and the ending is depressingly familiar. Could Bellerin ignore the best advice and actually depart from Arsenal?

Hector has only recently signed a long-term contract extension, but all this means in today’s money-tarnished footballing world is that the transfer fee would be further inflated. We as Gooners can at least find comfort in the fact that, in his own brand of Spanglish twangs, Bellerin has reaffirmed his intention to stay at the club.

It isn’t just Barcelona who wish to lure Bellerin away from Arsenal. Man City are also rumoured to be in the hunt, with former Gunner Mikel Arteta pivotal in their supposed plans to snatch our Spaniard from under our noses.

He did confirm his wishes to stay before the uncertainty and fall down the table enveloped the club however. Has his position changed? If Bellerin left, it would smart nearly as much as when Cesc left – also for Barcelona.

It is all conjecture of course, but any rumours surrounding our best players are bound to make us all nervous. We have all seen the countless bilge circulating around Alexis and Ozil, and it certainly appears that the Chilean at least is set for pastures new. 

But Bellerin  has Arsenal DNA. Never mind that his roots are firmly entrenched in La Masia ground. He has come through the ranks at Arsenal, and we have made him the player which is so coveted by those at the Camp Nou. 

So much depends on our where we finish this season. Champions League qualification may be scoffed at by some – especially when we are not close to winning the competition – but it means that our best players are dining a the top table where they belong. It means so much for us to stay competitive. 

We have made him who he is. We have given him everything. Let us hope that Bellerin repays that faith. 

The Famous Arsenal Back 5 – Will We See the Likes Again?

Published in the Gooner Fanzine – pick up yours outside The Emirates on matchdays!

It is a rare occurrence when rival teams and Managers acknowledge another teams strength. When it does happen, it sticks in the memory.

Think Henry being applauded by Pompey fans after destroying them single-handedly. Or Real Madrid fans begrudgingly clapping Ronaldinho after the Brazilian had taught their side a footballing lesson.

It doesn’t happen often, but it is a sign that true, unadulterated genius has touched proceedings.

Well, the amount of other teams managers, players and hierarchy that have held their hands up and given Arsenal’s famous ‘Back5’ as an example of the finest defensive unit to grace these shores, since the iconic Liverpool teams of the ’70’s and ’80’s is long and noteworthy.

Long coveting looks across the pitch and gushing comments of approval have rained down on the men who comprised the immovable object that was Arsenal’s Back 5 for over a decade – and for good reason.

Singularly, they were the zenith of defensive solidarity, giving each and every attacker the strictest of examinations. It was as a whole though, that they excelled. Much like the greatest groups that existed, each strength that was brought to the table was a segment that when put together, made an unbreakable shield.

Like the 300 which battled fiercely in Thermopylae, the shield formation which was the demise of many Persian enemies is a succinct example of Adams, Bould, Winterburn, Dixon and Seaman. 

If one shield drops, then the whole unit is compromised. It was each mans strength which gave the other man protection. It was a united effort. 

At the centre, the Captain. Born to be a leader, adored the club and led from the front. Every battalion needs a shining example to ready the troops before battle, and Adams stood on the parapet each and every time, sword raised, his battlecry inspiring his men. 

He wasn’t half bad on the pitch either. His reading of the game was modelled on England hero Bobby Moore, and he excelled. His aerial ability was unrivalled at both ends of the pitch, and he was his managers perfect middle man, making sure the plan was perfectly pitched.

Alongside him was Steve Bould. The forever follically-challenged Bould was the perfect foil for Adams, and each complimented the other. When both were playing, the foundation that the rest of the team could fall back on must have been a welcome presence.

On the right, Lee Dixon had an incredible engine, and whilst his frame was never imposing, his desire and tackling ability more than made up for his lack of height. His crossing was always a valuable outlet, and he never left his post, unlike some modern fullbacks today.

Nigel Winterburn was on the left, and he provided the same outlet that Dixon did on the opposite side. He also played on the edge, sometimes boiling over when he felt injustice.

Then the gentle giant David Seaman was the man between the sticks. A huge man with a gargantuan wingspan, he commanded his area with no room for error. Whilst the midfield could feel relieved to have the stout defence behind them, the very same defenders could rest assured that ‘SafeHands’ was standing true if any enemy broke through.

These paragraphs aren’t meant to do justice to these players. Their legacy goes beyond words. The reason their tenure at the club stretched for so long is that the essential factor of any defence – reliability – existed every year. Their excellence at what they did ensured that every season, the club would at least have a solid footing to fall back on. 

The perfect example was in Copenhagen in 1994, when Arsenal won the European Cup Winners Cup after beating Parma 1-0. The Italians had the cream of attacking talent and were widely expected to roll over the Gunners, but Tomas Brolin, Gianfranco Zola and Faustino Asprilla grew more and more frustrated as the famous back 5 repelled each and every attempt they mustered. It was the perfect battle between attack and defence, and Arsenal’s backline won handsomely.

Arsene Wenger’s glittering start at the club would have been markedly different if he didn’t have this cadre of soldiers to fuse to his cosmopolitan flair. The mix in styles worked perfectly, and Wengers handling of the players training and fitness allowed these men to play on for more years than they ought to have with their previous regimen.

We have had defenders who have performed admirably for us since. Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Bacary Sagna and a few others provided top grade service to the shirt during their playing careers, but they never came close to recreating what the famous Back5 had.

The fact they are famous across footballing circles is because they were exactly what other managers wanted at their club – and still do.

Some factors in the sport are meant to be held up and admired through rose-tinted specs, and used as a prime example of what to aim for. Used as the ultimate achievement, but most will fail to attain such a standard. 

Will we ever witness such an amalgamation of titans again? A barrier so formidable that even the sharpest of attacks were blunted as they attempted to force their way through? 

As aforementioned, we have had elements of the equation before, but never as a whole. Could we now though, have all the parts to build the machine we require?

Petr Cech is still one of the finest exponents of goalkeeping in the Premiership. Hector Bellerin is already one of the best in his position, and at such a young age he will only get better. Koscielny had already forged a reputation as one of our greatest defenders, he just needed a partner. In Mustafi it appears he may have found one. On the left, Nacho Monreal has given us, and continues to, reliable service in defence and attack.

It is far too early to give a prognosis on the replication of such an immortal band of men, but the signs are good.

All they need now is a decade or more playing together, a truckload of trophies, and form that never dips below a certain level. 

Shouldn’t be too hard.