Unai Emery isn’t one to undermine cup competitions. His winning three Europa League and two Coupe de France trophies in five consecutive seasons before joining Arsenal must highlight his view on cup tournaments, so it wasn’t surprising when he fielded a strong second-string side in the recent third-round Football League Cup fixture against Championship team Brentford. Continue reading
Hector Bellerin has received as much flak as any Arsenal player since the start of the Premier League season and, to an extent, deservedly so.
In the opening losses against Manchester City and Chelsea, he often looked a headless chicken. Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso had a Team of the Week performance against him, scoring the Blues’ winner in the 3-2 thriller from his side of the pitch. Interestingly, the Citizens’ goals in the 2-0 loss in London also came from his flank. Continue reading
The most exciting match from the second week of the 2018-19 Premier League season saw Chelsea defeat Arsenal 3-2 at Stamford Bridge, with Maurizio Sarri’s side surrendering a two-goal lead before striking late on through Marcos Alonso to pick up their second win in as many games.
Both teams put away chances in the first half, with Pedro and Alvaro Morata scoring for the hosts before quickfire goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi for the Gunners to level things up just before half-time, but it was the 2016-17 champions who earned the early-season bragging rights in this London derby.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Hector Bellerin blew into the Premier League as a breathe of fresh air. The Spaniard forced his way into the Arsenal first team as a teenager, becoming one of the Gunners’ most important players. There was even speculation that he could return to the club of his heritage, with Barcelona reportedly interested in taking Bellerin back to the Camp Nou.
That player, though, hasn’t been seen for a long time. Bellerin is now considered a weak link in the Arsenal first team, as demonstrated by his performance against Chelsea on Saturday. Maurizio Sarri knew to target the Spaniard, with Eden Hazard torturing Bellerin for as long as he was on the pitch.
At a time when new Arsenal manager Unai Emery is plotting a way forward, overhauling his team and overhauling the culture at the Emirates stadium, Bellerin is becoming a problem. While there have been signs of progress further up the field, the defence remains an issue for the Gunners and Bellerin is a significant part of that issue.
The Spaniard used to symbolise all that was good about Arsenal, even in the latter Arsene Wenger years when doubt started to cannibalise the mindset at the North London club. Here was a young player who was a product of both shrewd scouting and good coaching. Bellerin was a modern full produced in a modern way.
Bellerin wasn’t just an attacking threat, but adept at the defensive side of the game as well. He looked to be a player Arsenal could count upon for years and years to come. But somewhere along the line Bellerin lost his way. He didn’t just start to tread water in terms of his development, he regressed.
This is where the signing of Stephan Lichtsteiner could be the catalyst that Bellerin needs to save his Arsenal career. The addition of the veteran Swiss defender following his release from Juventus at the end of last season was a peculiar one, but there is no denying that he will be an influential figure in the dressing room and he will provide some competition at right back.
Of course, Lichtsteiner certainly isn’t a long term option for the Gunners. At 34, he is well into the twilight of his career and so it seems likely that he will only give Arsenal one or two seasons of service. But he is very probably a more reliable option at right back than Bellerin is right now.
Bellerin’s poor form over the past season or two isn’t reason enough for Arsenal to give up on the Spaniard. At 23 years old, Bellerin could still come good. He could still rediscover the form that made him one of the most exciting young players in the Premier League not so long ago. But this season will be an important one for him. There must be an upturn in form soon.
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Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata has been omitted from Julen Lopetegui’s World Cup squad for this summer’s trip to Russia. The former Real Madrid and Juventus star has scored 11 goals in his first season at Stamford Bridge since arriving from the Spaniards last summer, but after a bright start to the campaign struggled to find his form. He did appear as a last minute substitute in last weekend’s FA Cup final win over Man United, but Morata seems to be out of Lopetegui’s plans. The 25-year-old was not the only top Premier League star to be kept at home this summer, though, with the likes of Marcos Alonso, Hector Bellerin and Cesc Fabregas also missing out.
With the return of the English Premier League after a brief hiatus for FA Cup action, it’s now time to look ahead to this weekend’s fixtures and find 11 players worth keeping an eye on. Continue reading
Arsenal’s record-breaking 13th FA Cup trophy may have delighted the club’s fans, but it could scarcely offset the disappointment of their performance in the Premier League this season. Continue reading
Manchester City made an approach for Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin this summer but saw their interest rebuffed by the Gunners. However, recent reports have suggested the Spanish defender is considering a switch from the Emirates Stadium to the Etihad which led to Arsenal issuing a hands-off warning to City’s sporting director Txiki Begiristain.
City are in desperate need of a right-back due to the dwindling form of their ageing defenders Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta. Sagna turns 34 next February and Zabaleta will turn 32 in January, and both players have struggled for consistency in the Premier League in the last 12 months. City manager Pep Guardiola needs a long-term replacement and Bellerin fits the bill perfectly.
The Sky Blues boss knows Bellerin from his time with former side Barcelona, and the talented 21-year-old would also fill a space on the homegrown quota. Coming off the back of an outstanding campaign that saw him named in the PFA Team of the Year, representing the Spain national team, while making the squad for Euro 2016, Bellerin’s stock couldn’t be higher at present.
As a result, his asking price will sky rocket, but City are willing to pay whatever it costs to get their man. Bellerin could be a long-serving defender like Zabaleta has been for the club, and reports are suggesting the youngster is open to a potential transfer. Arsenal have a rocky relationship with City with how many players they’ve lost to the Sky Blues in the past, but Bellerin would really hurt.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger developed the defender from an unknown teenager into the best right-back in the Premier League last season, so he won’t care what figures City could throw at the club for Bellerin. Various sources have suggested bids in excess of £40M would be required to enter contract talks, but the Gunners don’t need to sell.
They have a real need to hold on to the Spaniard due to how much Mathieu Debuchy has struggled since his move from Newcastle. The Frenchman spent the last season on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Bordeaux and is up for sale this summer. Bellerin is first-choice in the backline for Arsenal, and has all the attributes that Guardiola loves in his fullbacks.
An attacking defender, boasting excessive pace, while creating numerous chances of the teammates. Bellerin has also improved defensively, averaging a tackle or interception every 26minutes. Manchester City are sure to make another approach this summer, but will they get their man?