Is Héctor the last name on the exhaustive list of players we hang on for too long?
Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Joel Campbell, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Johan Djourou, Nicklas Bendtner and Denílson are the prime examples of players towards whom the Club has been too loyal, despite the evident gaps.
“Yeah but on his day….”, ”well, if he can stay fit…” or “in the correct system…” were the most common reasons to keep believing in this or that player, when the Club would give him a new deal or keep him in the squad. The flaws were quite apparent, yet we would believe that the world-beater within any of those players would see the light any moment and prove us right.
The flaws, in Héctor Bellerín’s game, are as apparent yet all I hear is that he isn’t fully fit since his knee injury and that he will come back to his best; his best, though, was never that great: before he ruptured his ligaments against Chelsea. His first touch was already quite suspect, his decision-making in the final third already disappointing and his overall defensive awareness already inadequate.
His unbelievable acceleration and speed often helped him to hide his major flaws and now that his burst of pace is gone – perhaps temporarily – all the gaps are too large to go unnoticed.
I love how Héctor Bellerín came as a 16-years old winger, worked his way up the academy and established himself as our first-choice right-back but if I had to point out a clear improvement in his game, I would struggle: despite his education in a more advanced role, he doesn’t produce enough when in dangerous areas and his ball retention, coupled with his passing, are often below-par.
In our recent game against Manchester City, Pep Guardiola instructed Ilkay Gündogan to press Héctor Bellerín as soon as he got the ball, sure as he was that the aggressive pressure would force the Spaniard to pick the safest option, hence giving the ball back to the centre-half or the goalkeeper.
He wouldn’t do that against a player that you know *might* be able to pick a difficult forward pass or dribble his way past your pressing, that would be too risky.
There are many things to like about Héctor Bellerín: his engagement in topics that are still considered as controversial in football, his undisputed love for the Club, his understanding of the profound meaning of being a Gunner, his character and his willingness to help everyone within and around the Club.
Héctor Bellerín is the ultimate ambassador for the Arsenal but that’s too much of an off-the-pitch role for a player who should be hitting his prime and be among the best full-backs around.
Instead, the gap with the best full-backs around is frightening: when you compare Héctor Bellerín to João Cancelo, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joshua Kimmich, Benjamin Pavard or Kyle Walker, you can understand how far he is from the composure, consistency and reliability of his colleagues.
It goes behind the numbers, because on his day (does it sound familiar?) Héctor Bellerín can be a great asset at both ends of the pitch but unfortunately those moments don’t happen regularly enough.
As likeable he can be, Héctor Bellerín is among those players we should be looking to upgrade on, especially if he will still attract interest from other Clubs as he did last summer.
As heartless or ruthless it might look, it’s time to move on from our old friend Héctor, another player unlikely to become the world-beater we all want him to be.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.