Hello and welcome to Friday on TremendArse. I don’t know about you, but for me, this week’s flashed by like Hector Bellerin overlapping an opposition left-back. Frighteningly fast. Perhaps next week will feel slower – I certainly hope so – because at this rate, Euro 2016 will be upon me in about a month.
And speaking of our Spanish speedster, he’s put pen to paper on a new long-term deal with the club following his remarkable rise to first-team prominence last season. Bellerin made 28 appearances and scored twice in his breakthrough campaign, having started the season as third-choice right-back behind Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers and finished his first season with an FA Cup winning flourish.
Manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that despite being convinced by the 20 year old’s ‘special’ desire to develop into a top-level competitor very early on, even he didn’t envisage the progress Bellerin would make quite so soon. He told Arsenal Player:
His progress has been huge because if you had asked me that question last year, exactly on the same day, I would not have guaranteed you that Bellerin would be a regular player in the club by the end of the season but he managed to do it. He’s a very serious, mature boy. I met him when he was 15… and I could see straight away that there was something special on the hunger side, on the desire and maturity side. He was a very mature boy very early.
But the challenge now for the former Barcelona youth team product says the boss, is to prove he can continue his form into the new season – a gauntlet he also laid squarely at the feet of last season’s other surprise story, Francis Coquelin:
Bellerin and Coquelin were not necessarily planned last season to come out and they have to confirm that this season. That’s always very difficult, to produce a similar performance in the second season. That’s their challenge. He’s a very mature and very focused player. I’m confident he will have a good season again.
Arsene alludes to it above and the phrase ‘second season syndrome’ is often bandied about the year after a player’s arrival into the first-team fold but for me, it’s no more than a mythical malaise for the most part, tending only to affect the few who were only ever convincing due to circumstance in the first place, or at an age when a natural decline was almost inevitable. I think what Arsene’s highlighting here, is more the need for mental focus from the duo.
For instance, Phillipe Senderos played an integral role in our run to the Champions League final in 2006 but never looked close to being accomplished enough, purely as a footballer, to make his form last into the succeeding season and over a sustained period. It’s just that he was part of a well-drilled defensive unit that heart-breaking year, and as harsh as it may sound, was made to look far better than he ever was.
Bellerin and Coquelin are different I think, with both still relatively young and so improving all the time, but crucially, both outstanding individual footballers in essence, as well as being cohesive components to the Arsenal collective. With the pair also said to have fantastic attitudes, I’d say only injury could prevent them from at least reproducing the level of performance they managed this past season. Don’t prove me wrong lads!
Moving on and as we prepare to face Everton in the Asia Trophy final on Saturday afternoon, Wenger has praised the level of fan attendance at the tournament, the facilities in the Far East and revealed his expectation that Roberto Martinez’s men will provide a stern test for his team.
I must say that I’m surprised by the number of fans and overall the Asia Trophy is a good surprise for us because it was on a good pitch, good training facilities and the quality of the games has been surprisingly good at this stage of the season. The first half was very, very competitive between Stoke and Everton. The challenges were Premier League challenges and I expect that from Everton. They came out of a season where they did less well than the season before and they certainly want to start strong. They look focused and prepared.
Elsewhere, Ajax have confirmed a season-loan loan for Yaya Sanogo, CEO Ivan Gazidis has been waxing lyrical over Wenger, whilst the manager himself has distanced the club from any imminent move for Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, without completely dismissing interest in the player.
The talk around this particular rumour seems to suggest the player is happy where he is but with a new manager at the helm at the Bernabeu, any change in his status as a first-choice starter may lead to his departure. We’ll see.
See you on Saturday.