Bel­lerin’s new deal is Arse­nal’s best news of the year

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY JACK PITT-BROOKE

“IT WILL BE GREAT,” smiled Arsene Wenger on Thurs­day, when asked for his re­ac­tion to Hec­tor Bel­lerin’s im­mi­nent sign­ing of a new deal. “Let’s say ‘it is great’ when it is done.”

Four days on, Bel­lerin has signed a new long term con­tract at Arse­nal, end­ing any chance of him go­ing to Barcelona or Manch­ester City any time soon.

It is the most im­por­tant news Arse­nal will get for months, and will only help in their at­tempts to per­suade Me­sut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to com­mit their fu­tures to the club too.

That might sound like ex­ag­ger­a­tion in the case of a 21-year-old full­back who has only been a reg­u­lar for the last two years. But Bel­lerin is far more than that.

He is a unique player in the Pre­mier League, and has very few ri­vals in Euro­pean foot­ball. If he went, Arse­nal would not re­place him with any­one half as good.

Mod­ern ex­pan­sive foot­ball needs fast full­backs, men to pro­vide the width while at­tack­ing mid­field­ers tuck in.

That is how Arse­nal play, with their nar­row 4-2-3-1 de­mand­ing their full­backs dom­i­nate wide ar­eas.

In Bel­lerin they have a player who is fit and fast enough to keep charg­ing up and down his flank, fram­ing their at­tacks while also help­ing out in de­fence.

That is what he has done for two years now, and no one else in the coun­try does it as well as him.

Arse­nal found Bel­lerin at the Barcelona academy, play­ing as a very quick and brave lit­tle right-winger.

They signed him in 2011 along with his team­mate Jon To­ral, a mid­fielder, and tried to sign Sergi Sam­per too.

Steve Bould got to work try­ing to turn Bel­lerin into a right­back, and even today Bel­lerin ad­mit­ted that he did not know how to de­fend when he ar­rived. Within a year Bel­lerin was play­ing at right­back for Arse­nal’s Un­der-21s, at the age of 17, and his pro­gres­sion con­tin­ued quickly from there.

In the fu­ture most full-backs will be con­verted wide play­ers, but for now Bel­lerin is a rare model, which is why he is so at­trac­tive to other clubs. Pep Guardi­ola wanted him at City this sum­mer, see­ing his Barcelona ed­u­ca­tion and Pre­mier League ex­pe­ri­ence as the per­fect com­bi­na­tion.

City would have paid very good money for Bel­lerin.

But Arse­nal re­fused to ne­go­ti­ate at any price and Bel­lerin was very happy to stay too. If Barcelona came in for him it might be a harder de­ci­sion, but now that Bel­lerin has signed up un­til 2023 there is no dan­ger of that hap­pen­ing any time soon. – The In­de­pen­dent

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