At only 19-years-old, Hector Bellerin had his breakthrough in the Arsenal side last season. Now 20, his explosive pace, attacking ability and discipline defensively have all become traits that the Spaniard is well-known for and three particular reasons why he is held in such high regard by manager Arsene Wenger.
In the 2013/14 season, Bellerin was loaned to Championship side Watford on a short-term deal, where he impressed and really began to make a name for himself, with Wenger reportedly becoming a big fan of the youngster.
Injuries to Mathieu Debuchy, tiredness from Calum Chambers in his first full season at the club and Carl Jenkinson being out on loan to West Ham all meant that Bellerin was given his chance to impress, famously first appearing in the UEFA Champions League against Borussia Dortmund, a 2-0 defeat where the former Barcelona man was taught a lesson that has stuck with him since and no doubt made him a much better player.
The Arsenal boss stuck by Bellerin after his tough test in Germany, who grew in confidence game after game and finished the season with two goals in 28 appearances, and also won the FA Cup.
So, after such an impressive debut season for the club, where next for Hector Bellerin?
The sky really is the limit, and at such a young age, he still has a lot of competition with the likes of the much more experienced Debuchy, who suffered a torrid debut season full of injuries, and Arsene Wenger believes that if Bellerin is to make his mark, he must keep the Frenchman out of the team: “I expect him to confirm all the good aspects of his game [in the new season] that he has shown, and to accept that he has a tough challenge with Mathieu Debuchy.
“Mathieu is a guy who has always shown unbelievable mental strength and has top quality. He’s a regular player in the French national team so Hector cannot rest. He has a big battle to face.”
Tough competition does not scare the ex-Watford loanee, who said that after such a fantastic debut season, his only goal is to keep his place in the team: “My personal goal is to keep working hard and hopefully challenge for the right-back spot,” he told Arsenal Player. “Last year I got more minutes than I thought and I think I showed people that I could play there.
“This year Mathieu is back from injury and hopefully it will be a big friendly battle in between us, and that’s going to make us better players by competing against each other. Then it’s down to the boss.”
To have such a mindset at the very tender age of 20 shows a fantastic amount of maturity from Bellerin, who seems destined to develop in to one of the most sought after full backs in world football.
Having signed a new, long-term contract recently, Arsenal fans can rest assured that Bellerin will not be on the move any time soon, despite history of former stars of the North London club leaving in search of glory, recent FA Cup triumphs should be enough to assure Bellerin that the Arsenal project is well underway.
Making such an impact at a very young age bodes well for Bellerin, who is years away from his peak and fitness permitting, will be able to continue dominating the full back position for a number of seasons to come. Mathieu Debuchy, Bellerin’s only current direct competition for the right back spot, can also play in the middle of the park, as proven for both Newcastle United previously and Arsenal early last season, so the form of the Spaniard could see the £12m Frenchman made to move elsewhere on the pitch for playing time.
Carl Jenkinson has been sent back on loan to West Ham for a second consecutive season, but signed a new, long-term and improved contract before doing so, which will give the lifelong Gunners fan reassurance over his future, but if Bellerin has anything to do with it, it’s extremely unlikely that the England international will be provided with a chance to show his capabilities.
Perhaps Bellerin’s biggest and most important asset is his unbelievably explosive pace; the Spaniard is in fact so quick that last summer, he broke Theo Walcott’s 40m sprint record by 1/100th of a second, a time so quick that if he were to line up against the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, he would be strides ahead of the Jamaican with just over half the race to go – an unbelievable thought.
The emergence of both Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin over the last year, as well as that of Jack Wilshere previously, shows that biding your time, working hard and earning the right to pull on the Arsenal shirt are all factors that Arsene Wenger holds in high regard, rewarding those most deserving with development, responsibility, playing time and plenty of experience.
A level-headed youngster, still considered a starlet; Hector Bellerin will only get better and develop in to a world class, modern day, attacking full back.