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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?

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. 

Bellerin Is A Gunner For The Long Term

Originally published on Goonersphere

The news that Hector Bellerin signed a contract extension recently may have slipped under the radar amidst the flurry of fixtures, but it should be celebrated wildly. 

The young Spaniard has ripped up the rulebook on age and progression since his debut two seasons ago, and his talent has seen him earn international recognition with the Spain. All of this has happened in two years, and throughout that time, his displays for his club have been nothing short of sensational.

The 21yr old found his way into the team thanks to injuries to then first choice Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers, but never has bad luck worked out so well. His inauspicious beginnings contrast with where he finds himself now – as perhaps the most effective right-back the Premier League possesses. 

His first start for the Gunners was in a 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund, and the green Spaniard was hung out to dry by the vibrant German team. It was hardly befitting of a player who has gone on to do wonderful things. Plunged into the deep end, and after suffering so severely in his debut, it was sink or swim for Bellerin. Would this teenager wilt under the criticism and pressure?

We all know the answer now, and Bellerin has gone on to answer any questions surrounding his quality in succinct fashion. 

His rampaging runs down the right have become a signature move for Arsenal, and he has provided a valuable outlet when converting defence to attack. He is much more than a swashbuckling wing-back however.

What is particularly impressive is his dedication to improving his defensive inclinations. He could quite easily grab the plaudits by providing assists and a goal threat with his rapier pace, but it is his presence of mind when choosing the right moment to add his weight to an attack.

 His decision making for such a young fellow is quite incredible. His man to man positioning has improved markedly and we have seen on many occasions, Bellerin thrusting out a leg to quell a potential goal, performing the role of last man in our hour of need.

Hector Bellerin is responsible for making expectations for youngsters harder. He has raised the bar. How often do we see a kid of his age hold his own and progressively improve? Now, every product from the youth team will be judged via the Bellerin Effect. 

Increasingly in the public eye, he is charming on camera, and holds himself impeccably away from the lens. His social media actions are far from lascivious as opposed to some who have erred via social media, and he has not courted the slightest bit of controversy. The boy is dedicated to his career, and it shows.

There is a reason why he was named in the Premier League’s Team of the Year last season. Not one player can match his output in the same position. If you imagine a growth chart that every new parent receives regarding their bundle of joy, which estimates the growth projection of the child – if Hector had the same thing regarding his career progression, he would be off the scale.

After just two seasons, he is already well ahead of where most would be. Seeing as he is far from his peak – what player will we possess when he finally reaches his zenith?

That is why it is vital Arsenal tie him down for a number of years. What is the point in cultivating a perfect orchid, only to sell it before it has fully bloomed? We want to see the fruits of our labours. 

Manchester City and Barcelona were reportedly sniffing around Hector – and you can hardly blame them. The move to keep Bellerin at our club was imperative – what good is a bundle of cash when we would struggle to replace him, no matter how much we spend.

We should rejoice at the news. Hector Bellerin has raised the bar for all youngsters thus far, but he may just do the same for his position. 

The Plusses & Pitfalls of Youth

Originally posted on You Are My Arsenal

The fallout from the most recent North London Derby resulted in a whole host of new coping mechanisms cropping up amongst Gooners. Some resorted to the tried and tested method of searching for a scapegoat and giving the aforementioned horned beast a vociferous lashing with a keyboard. Others had a trusted ally to forget their woes – alcohol. Some though, found it most cathartic, to self-flagellate and whisper apologetic mantras to whatever deity they believe in…..That may be just me then. Ahem.

Going back to finding an avenue for blame.  In recent games our young Spanish Right-Back Hector Bellerin has been the focus of the vilification from some quarters. Whilst Aaron Ramsey has shouldered the burden for the majority of the season after being unable to scale the heights of the previous season – his injury and intermittent appearances have allowed another to bear the brunt.

It is inarguable that it was on our right side that spurs found most joy. They found that Bellerin, despite Welbeck’s best intentions – could be singled out due to his penchant for wandering a little higher up the pitch than is warranted at times. Due to this, it left Eriksen and his cohorts to wreak merry havoc and launch meaningful attacks that were mostly repelled. The sheer amount of passes into our box however, meant that the law of averages came to the fore and they eventually breached us.

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