Reports linking Hector Bellerin with a move away from Arsenal this summer are to be expected; the only surprise contained in the latest story in the papers on Tuesday is that any potential exit might be at Arsenal’s insistence, rather than the player’s.
Arsenal are prepared to sell Bellerin if they receive a bid of £50 million. You can debate whether it has a ring of truth to it or not but the background noise around a summer exit for the right-back is growing ever louder. Barely a week goes by without speculation he will leave the club.
From Bellerin’s side, the attraction is clear: it would offer a new start under a new manager who might be able to develop him as a player. In many ways, Bellerin is the archetypal player in the second half of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Given a chance at an age when other managers would have shied away from looking at their youth options, his development has stagnated in the past 18 months. Proficient in attack, he lacks defensive rigour.
Wenger is known for a laissez-faire approach to work on the training ground, a man to deal in big ideas rather than fine details. Lee Dixon even went as far as describing him as “not a true coach” last week, claiming Tony Adams was more influential in the development of Ashley Cole.
It seemed a slightly dubious claim: Wenger has plenty of other success stories to point to as evidence he knows how to bring a player through. Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira would feature prominently on any list but the case studies are decreasing. From Theo Walcott through to Alex Iwobi, with Bellerin sandwiched in between, young players in the second half of Wenger’s reign have all been afflicted by varying degrees of arrested development.
A revitalised Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offers evidence of what can happen when a player is reintroduced to a more structured and considered coaching environment. As such, it would be no surprise if Bellerin was aching to start afresh at Juventus or Barcelona, clubs where the pursuit of major trophies is a genuine preoccupation and not an ephemeral ambition that doesn’t survive the winter.
Bellerin possesses many qualities that are perfectly suited to the concept of the “modern full-back.” He’s quick, energetic and combines excellently in the final third when on top form. That peak form has eluded him too frequently over the past season and a bit but there is no question he is a hugely talented player. He’s just one who would, at this stage in his career, benefit from an injection of new ideas.
Any agitation for change from Bellerin’s camp is understandable; Arsenal’s, less so. Given that the current back-ups are Calum Chambers, a player whose chronic lack of pace makes him ill-suited to the role, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has a greater claim to being a left wing-back and a central midfielder at the moment, it is unclear why Arsenal would welcome any approaches for Bellerin. Even if a £50m offer was accepted with a view to funding a rebuilding programme — something the Mail’s report suggested — that process would have to begin with a new right-back.
It has been far from an easy 12 months for Bellerin. It was April last year when he was barracked by the travelling Arsenal support during the infamous 3-0 loss away at Crystal Palace. When Wenger responded with a move to a back three and deployed wing-backs, Bellerin was far from an automatic choice. He has been the subject of criticism from supporters and much of it has been deserved.
But starting from scratch at right-back when Arsenal currently possess a player of Bellerin’s calibre makes little sense at all. If Arsenal are looking to raise money, there are more obvious places to start. And if they are going to be welcoming a new manager of their own, then a revitalised Bellerin will be an excellent starting point for the rebuilding process that so desperately needs to happen.