Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin is quite the polarizing player. Even is own team’s fanbase is fairly split on whether or not the Spaniard is a top player. In fact, audible groans from inside the Emirates can be heard over televisions all over the world whenever the 23-year-old defender makes even the slightest mistake on the pitch. This discernible disapproval by some accomplishes little and even constrains the player’s confidence before everyone’s eyes.
Despite this criticism, Arsenal manager Unai Emery has made it a point to run much of his offense through his talented defender. While it may be odd to some that a defender would receive so much power on the offensive side, this tactic has been working fairly well for the Gunners.
Even though the club began the season with a tough schedule, Arsenal have managed to score eight goals over their first four matches. While Bellerin has not yet scored a goal of his own, statistics show that Arsenal attack down the right flank more than anywhere else on the pitch. The Gunners’ offense has utilized Bellerin’s side 38% of time during these opening four matches of the current campaign. This is compared to just 26% down the center and 36% on the left side of the pitch.
Not only are Arsenal more likely to dribble down Bellerin’s side, but they also produce far more shots on the opposing goal from the right than the left side of the pitch. While 73% of their shots come from the center, 24% come from Bellerin’s side and just 3% of their total shots so far have come from the left-hand side.
It has also been noticeable how the team’s approach has been more methodical during the early stages of the 2018/19 campaign. Bellerin, a player full of pace, has only attempted and completed one dribble this season. This is despite having 253 touches, fourth most in the squad, and being known as one of the fastest players in the Premier League.
Also, Bellerin currently has the most passes on the Arsenal team, outside of the central figures of Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis, Granit Xhaka, and Matteo Guendouzi. These four aforementioned players are obviously going to collect more passes as they are more likely to receive the ball in the middle of the pitch and distribute from there.
Positionally speaking, Bellerin has been caught out a few times so far this season. This is part of the double edged sword of having such an offensive-minded full back, while also not providing cover with an exceptionally mobile defensive midfielder. Xhaka, for instance, is simply superb on the ball with his distribution; however, he is not necessarily a ball-winning, pacy player.
This is where Lucas Torreira comes in. Though the Uruguayan has yet to start for Arsenal during his freshman season in north London, Torreira is the prototypical player that can help out both Bellerin and Arsenal’s defense when the full back is out of position. During his final season with Sampdoria, Torreira racked up the third most tackles in Serie A and also ranked fifth in interceptions.
Although Emery has yet to give a start to Torreira just yet, a move to bring the Uruguayan into the fold for the 19-year-old Guendouzi will most likely occur soon. This will seemingly solidify the club’s porous defense, while also bring out the best of Bellerin going forward. The switch could be exactly what this Arsenal team needs.