Unlike a lot of the other end of season awards we’ve handed out, our Young Player of the Season wasn’t exactly a head-scratcher.
Arsenal Young Player of the Season: Héctor Bellerín.
21-year-old Héctor Bellerín, who also game third in our overall Player of the Season lineup, was promoted to the first team full-time after Mathieu Debuchy picked up a shoulder injury in January of last season. Since then, the younger right-back pushed the Frenchman out of the starting XI, forcing him to run off the Bordeaux on loan in order to get playing time.
Bellerín continued to impress throughout the 2015/16 season, proving his professionalism when times were hard, excelling in his role and appearing 44 times, including the Community Shield against Chelsea.
Starting with what the Spaniard offered in terms of defence, he made 1.7 tackles on average per game, two interceptions, 2.3 clearances, 0.8 dribbles and 0.2 blocks. He was particularly strong in the Champions League where he made around 2.5 interceptions per game.
Speaking of the Champions League, his interception, run and subsequent assist against Bayern Munich still leaves me speechless.
Although his defensive stats aren’t better than the likes of say, Nacho Monreal, it’s his ability to get forward, as well as defend, that made him crucial this season.
Indeed, Bellerín isn’t just a brilliant defender. His speed, energy and agility is also hugely useful going forward. Multiple times, the youngster would steam ahead while Nacho Monreal hung back, giving us a cutting edge when it came to attacking at pace.
His youth often made opposition underestimate him, working to our advantage, with his displays against Sunderland (3-1, home), Spurs (2-2, away) and Watford (1-0, home) being particularly impressive. Against our north London rivals he bagged two assists, while against the Hornets he scored his only goal of the season. Of course, this raises the question: is he scoring enough? Could he could be more clinical in front of goal? But this is something he can work on. At such a young age, it’s not really a concern at this point.
In total Bellerin made six assists, overtaking playmaker Cesc Fabregas, and, on average, made 0.6 key passes per appearance. Going forward, his main strength was being able to dribble the ball while controlling it, and he did this on average 1.9 times per game. Overall, his pass completion rate was 85% – to put this into perspective, Mesut Ozil’s was only 0.6% higher.
At only 21, Bellerin has so much further to go but the maturity he’s shown in just about every aspect of his game during the 2015/16 season has demonstrated exactly why he keeps getting picked, week in, week out, and why he’s Daily Cannon’s Young Player of the Season.