The 2014/15 season was one to remember for Héctor Bellerín.
The Spaniard broke into the Arsenal first team at the age of 19, keeping his place when Mathieu Debuchy returned and playing in the FA Cup final defeat of Aston Villa in May.
The Gunners have started the new campaign with Bellerín first choice once again, and he has opened up about his first full season with the club in an interview with Arsenal Player.
“I learnt so many things about myself,” the right-back explained. “I learnt how to deal with pressure. That was one of the biggest things.
“When you get thrown into such big games at such a young age, it’s difficult to deal with.”
The defender was thrown into the deep end, starting in Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund back in September. Playing in front of one of the biggest crowds in Europe, the teenager was caught out on a number of occasions in one of Arsenal’s worst displays in 18 years under Arsène Wenger.
Amazingly enough, he didn’t even see that as the worst situation he found himself in. Instead Bellerín points to a game against Stoke which saw him subbed at half-time with Arsenal 3-0 down.
“I think the biggest thing was probably after being defeated by Stoke away and being substituted after 45 minutes, it would have been easier to be destroyed by the situation.
“For me it was just something where the boss thought it was a better option to have another player in my position, I didn’t need to worry about it but just keep training hard and then show him in the next game that I can do better than how I did.”
Bellerín added, “That’s what I learnt about myself – that I could deal with those situations and I think that’s important if you want to be a professional footballer.”
As the year went on, Bellerín grew into his role. Goals against Aston Villa and Liverpool showed his ability going forward – he was a winger in the Barcelona youth teams – while he became more imposing defensively.
“I don’t think I could have been in a better group to have my breakthrough season. I had experienced players that helped me in every situation, then I had young players and I think we gave the team that fresh air.
“I think players like Francis also had his breakthrough season last year so I was very happy to share those moments with him because I’ve known him for a long time as well.
“It’s important to have that mix in the team, and to be part of that team, especially with how successful we were in the second half of the season, is something I feel really proud of.”
As long as Arsenal keep unearthing and developing gems like Bellerín, plenty of success us yet to come.
The 20-year-old is an Arsenal legend in the making.