There is absolutely no doubt left in the minds of Culés that Barcelona need a right-back this summer; technically speaking, the club has needed one since last summer. It is a surprise therefore, that it has taken the club so long to come to an agreement with a decent player yet. While the delay in purchase can be excused due to the club’s insistence on keeping pretty accounts, there is no excuse for the club to not have done their homework, and secure a top quality right-back for so long.
Enter, Héctor Bellerin.
The Catalan has been a bit of an enigma ever since he started making waves in the Premier League with Arsenal since his move from La Masia— it is unsurprising then, that the club gets linked to the former academy player when there is a glaring vacancy in the starting line-up for his profile.
While Bellerin and Barça play the usual cat & mouse games during the window, there is plenty of reason to question whether Héctor is really the one that got away.
Below, I’m going to try and list down some pros and cons from the potential arrival of Héctor Bellerin, and come to a decent conclusion as to whether or not, the player will fill our needs on the right side of defence.
- Former academy player
It is difficult to negate the influence of a La Masia background when one is looking at potential transfer targets. Maybe his education will ease him faster into the team, or it won’t—either way, it is a good thing to be acquainted with the club.
- Pace & dribbling
Héctor Bellerin is quite possibly the fastest footballer on the planet today, and having him in the team will certainly give the Catalans an edge over others when breaking on the counter. The fullback is an excellent dribbler as well, completing ~80% of his take-ons.
- Tactical symmetry
Bellerin shares a lot of similarities with Barça’s starting left-back Jordi Alba, and having identical profiles on the flanks could potentially allow for more balanced attacks. We’ve all seen how dangerous the combination of Messi and Alba has been over the years, and Bellerin has a shot at something special with Neymar if everything works out. Neymar has made his fair share of cross-field passes before, and having a speed merchant to complement them will be a huge pro.
- Poor defence
Bellerin has quite some defensive frailties, often avoiding a tackle when the situation calls for it. Over-reliance on his pace has led the full-back to try and chase his man down more often than not. With only .75 tackles won per 90, Bellerin falls behind his counterparts in Dani Alves (2.07 per 90), Nelsinho (2.27 per 90) and Ricardo Pereira (2.06 per 90) while putting a similar number of interceptions per 90 (HB: 1.36, DA: 1.53, NS: 1.23, RP: 1.23).
- Weak crossing
Bellerin resembles Alba not only in his strengths but also his weaknesses, and that includes the left-back’s ability to cross. Héctor Bellerin completes 0.3 crosses per game, which is quite similar to Alba’s 0.4 per game. For comparison, Juventus’ Alves and Sandro are much better, with 1.4 and 1.3 crosses per game respectively.
I would like to think that the numbers fall short of explaining Barça’s interest in Bellerin, but there is a decent case for the full-back if the club is looking to find a profile that resembles Alba.
Maybe his signing will work and maybe it won’t but there is absolutely no doubt that the club needs a right-back, and the time for locking in a good option is running out.