Is there a current player at Arsenal who divides opinion more evenly than Hector Bellerin?
You’ll always find dissenting voices among fans when it comes to an assessment of any player, but usually the majority lean one way or the other.
For example, for Xhaka, Laca and Luiz the needle hovers somewhere in the range between “meh” and “get rid.” With Willian it is firmly stuck on “get rid.” With Tierney and Saka it’s at the opposite end of the dial. Et cetera.
But when it comes to the little Spanish fashion icon who patrols the right flank of our defence, that poor old needle doesn’t know where to go. Apart, possibly, from into the ink jar and then into Hector’s skin for his latest stylish tattoo.
For a good two or three seasons I have read columns and seen comments from supporters saying that Bellerin has not turned into the player we all thought he would be: that his defending and positioning are suspect, that his attacking effectiveness is limited and that he has a tendency to switch off at key moments.
Equally I have seen many opinions from people who broadly support him and his abilities. They note how consistent he has been, how his speed is still a real asset (even if he has lost one or two mph since his long term injury) and how he manages to provide goal assists fairly regularly.
Perhaps he has looked bad at times in recent years because the whole team has been bad and has been going through some tough transitional times.
My own view is that, as mentioned, that long injury lay off had a very big impact on him and it took him a very long time to get back in the groove. But once he had a good run of games under him I felt he was a pretty solid first choice in his position and have generally remained a supporter: a Hector Protector, if you will.
But in recent games I have been watching him quite closely and I am starting to have some doubts. Am I slowly changing into a Hector Detractor? Not sure.
What has bugged me about his recent outings is that whether it’s Pepe or Saka in front of him there are too many times in a game when he does not seem to be on the same wavelength as his more advanced partner.
He still regularly makes those surging runs from the RB position deep into opposition territory, but often they come to nothing and the ball is lost or, more typically, Hector checks, looks around for a bit, then turns and plays the ball backwards, killing any momentum we might have been making.
So what’s the answer? Is he good enough or not? It’s possible that the emergence of Kieran Tierney as a real dynamic force in the left back position has made Bellerin look worse by comparison. We can see with our own eyes how effective KT is, yet his stats are not so different from Hector’s: Bellerin has made 27 appearances in all competitions this season (25 as a starter) and has one goal and three assists to his name; Tierney has 20 starts with one goal and two assists.
I’m not suggesting the two players are comparable – KT clearly offers a greater offensive threat and would have far more assists if our attackers had been more clinical in front of goal. But Tierney is a special player. Our best left back in recent years was Ashley Cole and he played in a team where the right back was Lauren. Ralph was a brilliant defender, but he was not in Cole’s class as an attacking fullback. It didn’t matter.
Is that where we are with Bellerin? We just have to accept that we’re lucky to have a potentially world class LB and that Hector is a perfectly good role player in the RB position?
Or should we be looking to upgrade? On one level, you can pretty much always upgrade in any position in theory. But in the summer, with limited resources and cash, would you rather we spend big bucks on a significant upgrade at RB or on a new striker, or a new midfielder?
Anyway, I have ended this Post just as conflicted about Hector as I was when I started writing it.
Help me out here… how should we really rate Hector Bellerin? And what should we do with him?