When news surfaced ahead of the 2014-15 campaign that Arsenal right back Hector Bellerin broke Theo Walcott’s previous club record for a 40 meter sprint of 4.42 seconds, many were surprised. Walcott, who topped Thierry Henry’s time of 4.82 in 2009, is widely regarded as one of, in not the, fastest player in the Premier League.
Bellerin has received plenty of attention over the last year or so due to his blazing speed; however, there is much more to the 20-year-old defender’s game than just pace. With his skill set, it’s no surprise that Bellerin has previously been deployed as a winger during his teenage years. Along with his obvious pace, the attack-minded player also possesses vision, as well as the ability to score a goal or two (as Liverpool fans took note of back in April).
The current Spain U-21 international joined the Gunners from the acclaimed Barcelona academy in the summer of 2011 (the same time as Cesc Fabregas joined the Spanish giants). After developing in the Arsenal youth ranks for his first two-a-half years in north London, Bellerin joined Championship side Watford in November of 2013. Following a three-month spell with the Hornets, in which he played as a midfielder, Bellerin was recalled by the Gunners and was assigned to the U-21 Arsenal team (and subsequently went back to the right back position).
Heading into the 2014-15 season, Bellerin was seen as the third right back behind newly-acquired duo Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers; however, due to injuries to both of the aforementioned players, Bellerin made his Champions League debut against Borussia Dortmund in September (a match that ended in a 2-0 loss for the Gunners).
While he made a few Premier League appearances for the senior team during the first half of the 2014-15 campaign, Bellerin took over as the starting right back midway into the season. The youngster certainly benefited from another injury to Debuchy, but Bellerin remained in the starting XI instead of Chambers due to his outstanding overall play for the Gunners.
Bellerin gave Arsenal both stability at the right back position, as well as more offensive fire power down the right flank. His mesmerizing runs into opposition territory mirror those of fellow teammates Tomas Rosicky; however, Bellerin is also a sure-tackling defender as well.
As Bellerin stormed onto the scene in his first full Premier League campaign, transfer rumors began to swirl on his future. Nevertheless, the Arsenal player quickly rubbished talk of him returning to Spain following the successful season. “If I’d wanted to play (at Barcelona), I would have stayed there in the first place,” said Bellerin earlier in the summer. “The fact that I came to Arsenal means that I want to play here.”
“The job has just started and I am not thinking of going anywhere else,” he continued. “I just want to cement my place in the first team, get more games and hopefully stay for a long time. The moment Arsenal said they wanted me and I chatted to the boss, saw the training ground and where I was going to live, my mind was made up. I had no doubts.”
The 20-year-old signed a new long-term contract extension with Arsenal soon after the quotes were published.
In Bellerin, the Gunners now have a total package at the right back position: pace, defensive ability, and help on the offensive side. Although he is still very young, and there are a few things that he can improve on (getting caught out of position & crossing), Bellerin appears to be on his way to becoming one of the best right backs in the Premier League.
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