Arsenal fans making Spaniard their next scapegoat?
Based on the reaction to recent performances, it seems that Hector Bellerin is the latest in this line of scapegoats, with many suggesting that he is no longer good enough to play for Arsenal, and that the club need to identify a replacement right-back in the summer. This article looks at whether these suggestions have any substance, or whether Arsenal fans are blowing their issues well out of proportion.
Road to Recovery:
Hector Bellerin started the 2018/2019 campaign in fantastic form, arguably his best in an Arsenal shirt. Alternating between a traditional right-back and a right wing-back, his 18 starts yielded 5 assists, as well as on average almost one shot per game. He was a constant threat for Unai Emery’s side, until his season was cruelly cut short, suffering an ACL tear in a 2-0 win over Chelsea in January.
Returning to the side in a 2-0 defeat to Leicester, fans were hopeful that Bellerin would kick-on and return to his pre-injury form. However, just 3 games into his return, a hamstring injury forced him off and kept him on the sidelines for another six weeks.
Once again, he bounced back. 90 minutes against Chelsea was capped by a late equaliser, and he has since started three of the last four games, despite boss Mikel Arteta since revealing that the Spaniard has been playing with a torn hamstring.
So, what is the problem?
Recently, Hector Bellerin has been questioned on social media as to whether he remains good enough to play for Arsenal. Many have suggested that his pace, in many minds his best attribute, has disappeared. As a result, it is thought, his defensive performances have also dropped.
The first thing that must be said in his defence, aside from the injury he carries, is that two of his performances have come against Everton and Newcastle United.
More specifically, they have come against Alan Saint-Maximin and Richarlison. Both are well-known dribblers, and as of writing, Saint-Maximin sits third for most dribbles per 90 minutes. A return straight to the fire then.
But is it true?
As part of Arteta’s regime, the right-back has traditionally stayed back in order to allow Bukayo Saka to overlap, which he does fantastically. This would suggest that Bellerin’s attacking numbers would be reduced as a result of his more disciplined role.
The statistics confirm this – although the Spaniard has completed more dribbles per game than in either of his last two seasons, he takes fewer shots and makes fewer key passes per match so far this season.
It is going the other way that fans have expressed their doubts. Looking at the statistics, however, these doubts seem unfounded, despite the loss of some of his pace. It is true that he is being dribbled past more than ever in his career, but conversely, he is making the most tackles and interceptions in his career too. He also makes slightly more blocks per 90 minute. Different defending then, but not worse.
What does the future hold?
With the Premier League being suspended until at least April 3rd (and realistically, probably longer), Hector now has time to shake off his injury. Provided that the Premier League continues after its suspension, Bellerin will have 11 games to return to full fitness.
It is imperative that his injury record is considered when discussing Bellerin’s future. It is not possible for him to come back from such a huge injury at 100%, and at least needs to be given a pre-season under Arteta in order to show his true form once again.