Nothing is certain in football.
Over the past eighteen months, that has been the overriding message at Arsenal.
In the build-up to the Premier League campaign last year, the departure of an experienced figure such as Bacary Sagna was certainly going to sting.
Not least because, he opted for pastures new at a rival club in the same league. It was important going forward that Arsenal invested well in someone of similar quality in the same position as Sagna, who wanted an improved contract extension – although £100k-per-week sounded a steep price to pay for a man who’d broken his leg twice in a year.
A shrewd signal of intent
In came Mathieu Debuchy. Not exactly a big name in terms of popularity, but a shrewd signing nonetheless. As I’d said at the time, he would prove to be a short-term replacement for a long-term solution at the club. Fast-forward to the present day and the Frenchman is struggling to get into the team.
The Emirates Cup was Hector Bellerín’s stomping ground in July last year, where he made his mark and plenty of supporters began to keep a keen eye on his progress. Having spent two years in the youth ranks, as well as a loan spell at Watford, the Barcelona-born fullback knew his opportunity would come in due course.
It came. A tricky away fixture at the Signal Iduna Park up against a relentless Borussia Dortmund side. It seemed inevitable Hector was always going to have a tough time defensively. Losing 2-0 on the night, Bellerín made his Champions League debut and although unspectacular, it was a platform from which to develop his game.
Over the coming months, he began to establish his credentials as the club’s first-choice on the right-hand side of the defence. Debuchy eventually returned, and it would be interesting to see how the two players would compete for the spot each week.
Bellerín admitted that he still had (and has) a lot to learn, but his positive attitude has helped fast-track his development with Arsenal’s injury list continuing to mount. Since then, Debuchy has been sidelined (again…) and has consequently struggled to actively compete with the young Spaniard in the team.
Something to ponder
More of a rotation-type player, he is currently growing understandably frustrated by the lack of playing time he’s had over the past few months.
Understandably, given the level of consistency he displayed before his injuries – three months apiece – struck.
With the Euros looming next summer, Debuchy will do all he can to get himself into the France first team. It could be his last major tournament, so there’s no better way to bow out internationally than in your home country.
That being said though, he doesn’t have the assurance over first-team minutes that he would like. Since his injury problems, he looks more tentative in the tackle, there is less of a spring in his step and his acceleration has become stagnant too.
Bellerín is the opposite, constantly improving and has become a firm favourite with the supporters too.
The question that remains: will Debuchy make a move in January? If he wants first-team football week-in, week-out, he’ll have to seriously consider that.