Analysis – Why Arsenal must not sell Hector Bellerin

IN DEFENCE OF BELLERIN by Joe Allysons

Hey guys, we had a good end to the season, and the new one isn’t that far away. Good times.

I’ll jump straight in with my topic for today.

I’ve gotten into a few debates in real life with some Arsenal fans over Hector Bellerin, and my question has always been, what is the problem with him? Why is every fan and their uncle out with pitchforks and torches against him? Why is everyone making it seem like they would do better at RB than him?

To be honest, it’s the same disappointing answer. He can’t cross, he’s not defensively solid, he’s not comfortable on the ball.

Now we’ll go step by step on all of them. Let’s start from defending, considering he’s a defender predominantly. To be honest, I might agree that he does look defensively shaky many times. Question is, who looks more solid than him? Which arsenal right back isn’t getting turned inside out by opposition attackers that particularly choose to attack our right side? From memory, Everyone who we claim is better than him has actually done something worse than him.

Let’s start with AMN. Just to be clear, I actually rate Niles, but not as our starting RB. I actually think he, if willing, would be a great option to have as a backup right back. However, when we don’t have the ball, many times, you’ll find that Niles ends up in a position where he’s chasing the attacker. He very rarely is in front of his attacker, and I don’t know about you, but every time I see a defender chasing, my first assumption is he was either out of position, or he lost concentration.

Then comes Cedric Soares. To be honest, I wanted to start with a bit of a positive as I did with Niles, but this guy really isn’t that great at defending. Unlike Niles, who at least appears to try, many a time, I’ve seen Cedric lose a challenge and then just stand there like it’s not his responsibility to try and keep the numbers up. I’m struggling to remember a defensive action from him that got me off my chair and all I can remember is his part in Mane’s goal. I can’t think of any of our other fullbacks that would have behaved like he did.

Calum Chambers. Chambers gives us height at right back. He’s a really great tackler and is pretty calm. Thing though, is he’s quite slow and static for a right back and has occasionally been exposed by tricky wide attackers. I’d say he’s better as a centre back.

Then comes Bellerin himself. The most common defensive movement I can remember when I think of Bellerin, is how he will always drift towards his own goal to ensure the attacking player is always in front of him. While this doesn’t put an immediate stop to an attack, it slows down the attacker enough for the defence to reorganise, while also giving him room to study the move and choose whether to tackle or stand his ground. It does put him at a risk of being beaten on the dribble since it’s a game of wits with the attacker, but then, watching our games, I see him win a lot of his challenges in less dangerous areas because he draws the attacker in to try and dribble past him.

I do agree he’s not the most defensively solid fullback we have, but he’s the most defensively solid right back we have. For an example, if he could actively tackle like Tierney on the opposite side, that would be a whole lot better.

Now let’s move to the other side of the pitch.

It’s been a while since we had a right back racking up the assists for arsenal. I actually can’t remember one who consistently gave us five assists a season, but I’m open to being corrected. I admittedly haven’t tried to look at the numbers. This is because, for years, our right side has predominantly just been a supporting side in attack. The main attack has more often than not come from the left. Think Thierry, Arshavin, then Sanchez, now Auba. Having our left wide attacker as the source of goals usually gives the Left back the opportunity to get into positions to cut back the ball or whip in a cross, while leaving the right side with both the right back and the right sided attacker operating in a similar zone on the edge of the opponents box. With that established, Let’s see what we have in the way of fullbacks and what they offer going forward.

AMN. Watching him tearing down that flank at full speed just reminds me of traditional fullbacks. He has his mind set on getting to the by-line and then taking it from there. I’d say he’s the best dribbler we have at fullback, but also the least dangerous. See Niles attacks the opponents box more often than not from the most obvious area, which is laterally. This causes a scenario where he’s facing a fullback in his most natural position, and he doesn’t really leave much room for his attacking counterpart to vary his run. When Nile gets into an attacking position, his attacker literally has one run, which is to go narrow at the edge of the box. Now unless the opposing defensive midfielders aren’t watching, it means that most times when that ball is played, it will result in that attacker playing the ball further back to our own midfielders. The only advantage to this sort of attack is Niles could actually play a give and go with his attacking counterpart, but against most organized defences, we see him ending up offside because they pretty much expect it. If he’d just watch Bellerin and vary his entry points, That would be great.

Cedric.In the game against Liverpool, I complained that we were having to deal with Robertson simply because Cedric wasn’t putting pressure on him. Right from the first half, he was holding his line too deep, allowing Robertson too much space to receive the ball. The three strikers in the press are not really meant to mark. Their main job is to narrow passing lanes for the opponents to ensure that the fullbacks and line of midfielders behind them have pretty assured ways of winning the ball. Nelson would go narrow into the path of Van Dijk , but Cedric would stay deep enough that all Liverpool would have to do is lob the ball over Nelson , and Robertson would have the time to receive and run at Cedric.That being Liverpool , I excused his poor positioning . Against Aston Villa, I was damn near angered by his movement. Many times, David Luiz literally had to ask him to move and advance. Every time he received the ball, all he did was whip in cross after cross with no variation. He in total whipped in 11 crosses with no success. Admittedly, he has played very little for us and definitely needs time, but his skill set is clearly for particular kinds of games. We can’t depend on crosses in every game. I do like the shape of his crosses though. It’s really beautiful.

Calum Chambers. I love the simplicity in his attacking play, especially when he’s having fun. He does the simple things. Get away from your marker and offer support to your attacker. His delivery is more than a little lacking, but I believe that might be because he’s better at centre back.

Then comes Bellerin. The first place I’ll point out that Bellerin thrives in is in the narrow spaces. Teams more often than not try to overload Arsenal’s right side, and I’ve on many times had my heart in my mouth when Bellerin plays a short give and go with the nearest Central midfielder to get out of a press. Yes, he did play a howler of a pass against City. Let’s act like every time he played that pass, he skewed it. Every player misplaces one or two. Let’s not make a fuss. In coming out of defence, his positioning always gives the nearest centre back someone to pass to, and that’s very important playing out from the back. He however comes into his own in the transition. Despite the fact that I rate Nile’s control higher, I think Bellerin is the more intelligent dribbler. You’ll notice that he always angles his run to make it as uncomfortable as possible for not only the defending midfielder and fullback, but the defending team in general.

Unlike his counterparts, he doesn’t stick to his zone when attacking. He carries the ball with a lot of pace going forward, but I guess what makes him difficult to pick up is where he carries the ball. Take an example of the game against spurs. Bellerin goes outside Moura and Ben Davies then comes in at the edge of the box to set up Auba who kicks some fresh air. Next, he alters his run and comes in right in the middle of their box. He gets blocked from shooting, but the ball still ends up in the box.

Against City, he carries a similar threat in the run leading up to the first goal. He picks up the ball in a very odd position from city’s perspective. Who should track him? Sterling? No, he’d be going too narrow, Mendy? No, he has to watch Pepe, Silva? Maybe. All this time, he’s bearing down on their box. At the end of it all, none of them really approaches him, and Mendy can’t decide whether to stay and support his centerback or go mark Pepe. The end result is simple. An unmarked Pepe has all the time in the world to deliver a cross.

Against Chelsea in the final, it’s a similar question. They take the initiative by trying to throw bodies at him, but then you notice most of their tackles are too early or too late simply because of how odd the position is for them.

Then comes the deliveries. Hector doesn’t cross, and there’s a good reason. Crosses are the easiest thing to defend unless you create a situation where they can’t be defended. Hector’s deliveries are more about efficiency than they are about brute force. It’s quite possible for him to end the game without an accurate cross, but with two key passes. I don’t know if there’s a statistical valuation for a ball carry or a pre assist, but his edge in attack is more about getting the ball into the final third, and I don’t think we have a full back that does that better than him.

I know that there are rumours of him wanting to leave and I’d be gutted if he did. Big reason is, I don’t really see a fullback in our squad who can do what he does.

Thanks for reading.

Joe

45 Comments

  1. Eddie says:

    Arteta ain’t interested in letting go of Bellerin, don’t worry your head. Arsenal will sell him only if a large bid comes in.
    Other that, he’s in Arteta’s plan for the long term

  2. jon fox says:

    Joe , firstly my applause for the amount of detail- quite out of the ordinary on here- with which you have supported your contention about not selling Bellerin. By your use of ” gotten”, I assume you live in USA and will thus have seen either no games or hardly any in person. That does help to get a beter overall picture, despite your detail. Please corrct me if I am wrong about your residency, however.

    I do agree with a deal of your post but not with your MAIN point about keeping Bellerin. Simply put, he has been here many years and has had ample chances, unlike certain others in your post, to prove his worth. He is just a really poor defender and long term too. For me, he MUST be let go and I hope and believe he will be, on balance, sold or swapped in some way.

    1. Joe Allysons says:

      No, I’m not from the US. I’m actually from Uganda and have never watched a game in person. We might disagree on whether he has proven his worth or not, but truth be told, he’s the best fullback we have. We don’t really have any with his level of intelligence in the final third. I’ll give you this. If Trent Alexander played for us, he’d look as porous as Hector. With Arteta in charge though, and hoping for a clean bill of health, you should be able to see it soon.

      1. Kenny says:

        He is not the best full back in our ranks, Kieran Tierney is miles ahead.

        1. Joe Allysons says:

          Defensively, I agree. Offensively, I’ll need you to mark this comment. please do because I’m so sure of what I’m about to say.

          Once the new boy hysteria wears off, people will begin to notice how one dimensional Tierney is in attack. one should be able to do more than just crossing.

          1. Rory johnson says:

            Couldnt disagree more, Tierney is an old school full back nothing flashy but doesnt need to be, he just creates the space and delivers a cross, much better than bellerin might I add and his long pass over the top is on point, and yes better defensively than bellerin too, no “hysteria” hes just a better player.

          2. Davi says:

            Agree with Rory, Tierney is just quality. Ideal fullback. It’s not just his crossing either, his ball retention is better and hes usually a step ahead of his opponent. If you factor in his age (to avoid comparisons with aubameyeng) he’s by far the best signing we’ve made in a long time. As good as you could hope for.

          3. Val says:

            I’m with Rory on this one, sorry Joe, sounds like waffle to me

        2. s6boy says:

          yep best in the league

          1. s6boy says:

            i meant tierney

      2. jon fox says:

        Thanks for telling me where you are from. I will remember it! We must agree to disagree on Bellerin though.

  3. Labass says:

    Yh u re right. He’s still the best Rb we have. It’s not coincidence that he was once d best Rb in d world. Injuries and lost of form has reduced his confidence. Let’s support him

    1. ozziegunner says:

      Labass, when was Bellerin rated “d best RB in d world”, because it’s sure news to me. Even if he was once, like Mezut Ozil was once among the best #10’s in the world, Bellerin has declined. In my view and apparently others like jon fox, is that defensively he is not as sound as AMN.
      However, when it comes to players every body is entitled to their opinion, and the Heirachy at Arsenal will do what they want anyway.

      1. ozziegunner says:

        By the way “d best RB in d world” has only 3 full international caps for Spain in 2016. He did make the PFA Team of the Year: 2015-16 Premier League, but that hardly makes him “d best RB in d world.”

        1. jon fox says:

          AS A SURE FIRE EXPLODER OF SILLY HYPE YOU ARE IN A CLASS OF YOUR OWN OZZIE. “d best RB in d world”indeed! Not even the best RB in AFC.

          That sort of nonsensical hype and exaggeration is the enemy of truth and in the broader aspect, also the enemy of our clubs future success. Only a fool would want a long term proven useless defender to stay!

    2. Grandad says:

      Joe , I’m sorry you don’t understand a simple term which is self explanatory if you have played football at a decent level or have a real knowledge of the game.Basically , Bellerin does not have a natural ability to control and manipulate the ball with his right foot.His left is for standing on only.Not having this ability,which is there for all to see in Liverpool’s Alexander Arnold, for example, he finds it difficult to cross the ball on the run ,dribble past defenders and to retain the ball where he is restricted for space.Soares is not a great player, but he has better ball control than Bellerin and is able to cross the ball with pace because of this. Defensively, he is actually weaker than Bellerin.I hope this clarifies the situation but as you will be aware differing opinions lead to differing interpretations, in many walks of life.On many occasions, we just have to agree to differ.

  4. Grandad says:

    Bellerin was used as a full back by Wenger as he had blistering pace.This helped him recover quickly if he was beaten or as happened regularly,he was out of position.I’m afraid he has now lost his pace, and his positional sense has not improved.Furthermore he is a very poor kicker of the ball and does not have the technical ability to retain possession in tight areas .To be fair to him, he gives 100% every match and on occasion he can be effective in the final third.Significantly, and I think importantly, at a time when Spain have been searching about for a consistent RB or RWB, Bellerin has rarely been mentioned in dispatches.While Soares is the better player technically and in terms of crossing, he has lost his pace, and is no longer in contention for the Portugese national side.Basically, we have two pretty ordinary right backs neither of whom are as good or as adaptable as AMN who has never been given the chance to operate as a B to B midfielder where I am sure he would excel.I am pretty sure Ceballos will not be returning to Arsenal and I really hope Arteta has the resolve to reject the apparent pressure from “above” to sell AMN.

    1. Joe Allysons says:

      I don’t understand what you mean by not having technical ability to retain the ball in tight spaces. And being a poor kicker of the ball. You’re describing Cedric who does nothing but pump in cross after cross.

      1. ken1945 says:

        Just for clarification, Bellerin is the second fastest player at The Arsenal (Source: Arsenal FC!!! 5/6/19).

        Bellerin actually runs his first 40metrese quicker than Usain Bolt (4.41 to 4.64).

        As for Holding being naturally slow, he was the 6th fastest and here is the list with efficiency timings in % terms.

        1. Aubameyang = 9.63 @ 98% of the time.
        2.Bellerin = 9.63 @96%
        3.Sokratis = 9.59 @96%
        4.Iwobi = 9.56 @94%
        5.Mustafi = 9.48 @100%
        6.Holding = 9.41 @97%
        7.Welbeck = 9.37 @92%
        8. Ozil = 9.35 @98%
        9.Lacazette = 9.30 @96%

        Xhaka was 12th, Guendouzi was 15th, Torreira was 17th – couldn’t find the stats for Chambers.

        As at 10/2/20 (Source: Futball News) the fastest sprint times in the premier league this season sees AMN second at 37.46 km/h, bettered only by Soyuncu at Leicester with 37.55 km/h.

        Nice to compare Arsenal produced stats when discussing players perceived strengths and weaknesses!!!!

        1. ozziegunner says:

          👍

    2. s6boy says:

      i pray you are right

      1. s6boy says:

        grandad

  5. Siamois says:

    What is it with people going on about how Holding and Bellerin are slow or have lost their pace? first both players are 25 years old or about so even if it is true it has nothing to do with age,secondly both are back from serious knee injuries and as anyone who’s had one (I have)it will tell you it takes
    at least few months before you’re back to your previous level, unconsciously for a while you’re playing with the breaks on for fear of injuring yourself again ,the effects of the injury don’t stop once you’re back training,playing,once again time is needed,a rare commodity these days,sadly.

    1. jon fox says:

      Siamois, many young players with no injuries are just naturally slow. Holding and ESP Chambers, are both that type. Age and previous injuries are just red herrings in both cases.

      1. Siamois says:

        Fair point!

  6. Stewart Macintosh says:

    Bellerin is old, has had significant injuries and just isn’t that good anymore.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I like him, he has been one of my favourites but injury and time means that he can’t be the number one, and I doubt that he wants to be a backup just yet.

    He wasn’t a great defender when younger but he was so quick that he compensated for this. Without the speed, and with the club playing differently, he doesn’t look as effective.

    The other side though, is do we have the replacement in-house or can we get him. Not sure on either…

  7. Samuel Akinsola Adebosin says:

    I will not support nor succumb to any notions that are saying or have said that Hector Bellerin should leave Arsenal this summer window because of his defensive flaws at RB position for Arsenal.. But if at all there could be anything that is making him to want to return to his native Catalonia State in Spain and rejoin FC Barcelona but who hasn’t say they want him back this summer. But nevertheless, I think Bellerin should be made to by Arsenal to continue with his staying at AFC at least for the time being. This is because Arsenal currently do not have a better than him at RB position on ground at Arsenal’s London Colney Training Ground that will make the club to say bye bye us wish you well to him. Therefore. AFC will still need Bellerin’s RB defensive job at the club for next summer campaign in the PL than they’ve ever needed him since he came to join the junior Gunners team from Barca’s academy school of footballing. And if it is true that AFC are making a plan to seriously challenge for the Premier League title next season, then the AFC’s bosses are better advised this summer window to keep Bellerin and AMN in the Gunners’ ranks to serve as option and cover to Bellerin as Cedric Soares is sidelined to a long term injury. Besides, this article posting has pointed it out that Cedric is not that efficient in his RB job for Arsenal when he was watched playing for the Gunners at RB position. I think he was panic signed by Arteta for AFC last winter transfer window.

    But if I may ask, how true is the media reports that are saying Arsenal are going to payoff Mesut Ozil’s remaining £18m wages to leave the club immediately after being paid this summer. But how are Arsenal going to find that kind of money to payoff Ozil? And still go ahead to sign Philippe Cortinoh though on a season long loan deal, the same thing applies to Cebbalos, Thomas Party and Gabriel Magalhaes on permanent signings who are all linked with Arsenal for signings this summer. And yet should still go on to sign a new prolific top League 20 goals scorer per season striker but this is according to my own assertion for AFC who if they sign one this summer will be complementing the goals scoring efforts of: Aubameyang, Lacazette and (Willian if signed) for Arsenal in the PL next season.

  8. Davi says:

    Nice article. I don’t agree exactly – don’t think selling him is a must from the playing side, but if they’re talking about raising money, Bellerin going makes more sense to me than AMN. Probably similar or greater market value, higher wages and in my view AMN is a better player. Don’t quite agree with your assessment of HBs qualities on the ball, but we just see things differently.

  9. Andrew Elder says:

    Hector Bellerin is not going anywhere in a hurry, he’s got nearly 3 years left on his contract and earning around £5.5m per annum. Assuming that he won’t take a pay cut who is going to buy him? In my opinion he lacks one of the essentials of a good full-back, i.e. the ability to provide regular quality crosses and he has lost a bit of his pace since his injury. On the contrary I am sure that there are some EPL clubs who would be interested in AMN who I rate higher than HB. A great shame if that happens as I believe that Arteta has the coaching ability to develop him into a top player for the club. But in the current financial situation I don’t think he will be given the final say.

  10. Kstix says:

    I didn’t even bother reading the article as from the headline it looks like I’m gonna regret every word I read as it really fills me with disgust when fans think they have a little knowledge of the game but know absolutely nothing at all.
    When was the last time you saw bellerin beat his man, when was the last time you saw him put a good shift in defence and the pace we all knew him for is now a thing of the past. Tell me what top 4 team bellerin would enter into right now. After ceballos and saka and occasionally Pepe, AMN is the next best ball carrying player we have. He’s not just really confident on the ball, he knows exactly what to do with the ball. Bellerin is a master at passing sideways. Pepe gets frustrated most of the times when he makes runs for bellerin to put him through but bellerin gets scared and passes back to ceballos or xhaka or mustafi instead. Those 3 have received more passes from bellerin than pepe or lacazette. AMN is not just confident and ball carrying, he’s a player that would even be a goalkeeper if u asked him to and do a decent job. Not many teams have such versatile players. When you have a player like that, you keep him at all cost. AMN has impressed me a thousand times more than bellerin has in the last 3 seasons so I don’t get the fuss as to how anyone in their right minds would sell AMN instead of bellerin. I start to wonder what games you actually watch Joe. I doubt if they’re arsenal matches

    1. Joe Allysons says:

      When was the last time I saw Bellerin beat a man? Chealsea. He beat Kurt Zouma in the build up to the second goal. Frustrating Pepe? At least 3 out our last 5 goals came from him carrying the ball more than 30 yards to feed Pepe.

      1. Kstix says:

        This just proves you don’t watch Arsenal games tbh. You probably watch highlights or something that’s not Arsenal. He made a good run in the FA Cup final for the first time in as long as I can remember and was lucky to have pepe get the ball when he clumsily pushed the ball too far and got stopped by rudiger and fell. And it’s a lie to say 3 of our last 5 goals came from him feeding pepe. Go back and watch Arsenal matches again. Ceballos, Tierney, AMN and even Luiz have created more goal scoring chances than bellerin

    2. ken1945 says:

      well Kstix, with regards to Bellerin, try to remember the 2-2 away game against Chelsea,when he scored, or the cup final game against Chelsea when Auba scored our second goal after his close control and run?
      Surely YOU watched those two games?

      As for AMN, there is no way we should even consider selling him.
      He is pure class for me – why we should be discussing selling either player beats me.
      If both players are good enough for Mikel Arteta, then they are good enough for me!!!

      1. ozziegunner says:

        Ken, being good enough for Arteta is the important consideration, given that the head coach will rise or fall on the success of the team/players he coaches.
        Let’s hope he gets more support than Emery; however the situation with AMN does not auger well.

        1. Dan kit says:

          Ozzie ,Emery was supported 12 players bought in under us rein ,You really need to let it go ,he came he wasn’t good enough he was sacked ,I don’t see why you keep defending him ,remember he was like a woman scorned when he left slagging the club and players off .
          Arteta as had to work under the same restraints if not worse and we have all seen how much better he has done .

      2. Kstix says:

        My reply to you got sent below granddad’s comment

    3. s6boy says:

      god kstix i couldnt say that any better well done mate

      1. Kstix says:

        👍👍

  11. Marc says:

    Bellerin is an average RB and need an upgrade in that position if AMN leaves.

    AMN is a better RB than Bellerin. Bellerin is not a good defender and while he can get in good positions going forward, his end product is not great. AMN is a much better defender and on par with Bellerin going forward.

    Arteta bringing AMN against Wolves on the left and then Liverpool rather than Bellerin shows how much he rates AMNs defensive qualities.

  12. Grandad says:

    Well said Marc.

    1. Kstix says:

      How many games have we played this season Ken? Just the two?
      In the FA Cup, He made one good run the whole game and fell after pushing the ball too far. Luckily pepe was there to collect and laid the pass for Auba. Whose performance would you honestly rate higher in that Final between Bellerin and AMN?

  13. RFrancis says:

    This saga regarding HB is sadly, I must say, yet another example of how this Club has bungled scouting and recruiting at the RB position. If I recall correctly, HB was just a short term decision by Wenger which to date has not been fixed. Since the departure of Sagny, we have experimented and wasted money of Jenkinson, Chambers, Lichtsteiner, Debuchy and Mustafi without finding an ideal candidate. In this regard, I have always seen HB as a temporary stand-in with plenty of speed but lacking in defensive abilities. To make matters worse, we have now signed the questionable Cedric Soares on a long term deal, and ANM, our best candidate, has been shown the door.
    I sincerely hope we find a quick solution to this problem since, while we are here dithering, our opponents, especially Liverpool and City, have figured on that marauding wings backs are a vital component of the modern game. It’s no surprise to see other teams, including over neighbors across town, queuing up to sign ANM.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      RF, too bad other clubs aren’t lining up for other players, Arsenal really need to move on.
      It is tragic that this Club has so few saleable assets, it can sell.

  14. RSH says:

    I’d stick with him for another season. I’m under no delusions that he is good enough, or that we can win EPL with him as our starter. I’d devote our focus to midfield, CB at the moment tho. If he does go, then AMN can slot in if he is willing to keep playing RB.

  15. Mohsan says:

    Don’t sell him now because we won’t get good price for him, two reasons COVID19 and he has been injured most of the season. We should definitely sell him next year, If he can get more games under his belt I am sure we can ask higher amount then now. He is not a good defender and he is AVG going forward as well. His positioning is worse then AMN when he plays as RB. Most of the time he gets away with it due to his pace that allows him to recover fast but against a skilled winger he is utterly useless as a defender not to mention in air as well. We need some one like Tierney on right as well. Hopefully that dude we bought from Southampton proves better defender.

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