Arsenal 4 Liverpool 1: Impressive Hector Bellerin finds that travel broadens the mind and widens his chances

Spanish right-back scored a great goal in Arsenal victory

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The Independent Football

Seven Liverpool players lined the route of Hector Bellerin’s bending left-foot shot from the corner of the box to the corner of the goal. The gap through which the strike had to be forced was narrow indeed. In it went. One-nil.

Such is the man. If there is an opportunity to be had, however slim, Arsenal’s 20-year-old  right-back, we now know, will not be afraid to take it.

Bellerin was 16 when he left Barcelona for Arsenal, in the hunt for first-team football. The same path trod a decade earlier by another legend in this part of north London, even if he now plays his football in the west.

How must he have felt then, last summer, when Bacary Sagna departed for Manchester City but Arsène Wenger brought in not one but two new right-backs, the experienced Mathieu Debuchy and the young Calum Chambers, the same age as him. The message: you are not ready.

“He is one of the surprises of the season,” Wenger said afterwards. “I gave him out on loan to Watford last year. He is just 20 years old. If you look at what he does at 20 years of age, he played one on one against a great player today, in Raheem Sterling, in the second half.”

At the start of the season, Chambers played brilliantly in the Community Shield, and in the first few matches too, was suddenly in the England team and was one of the most talked about players in the Premier League.

But now, at what is traditionally called the business end of the season, the boy from Barcelona has moved beyond him.  Admittedly, it cannot be ignored that in marking Sterling he did bring him down in the box, giving away a penalty and being extremely fortunate not to receive a second yellow card. Against clubs of Liverpool’s stature, it is rare for such actions not to have more serious consequences.

“Yes, maybe he still has some experience to gain,” Wenger admitted. “But defending one against one is good, and going forward he is good as well. And he scored a goal in a big game, and that shows that the guy has the mental quality to be there.”

He certainly does. As Greg Dyke and the Football Association have again set about their quest to get England’s talented youngsters playing first-team football, calling for an increase in homegrown quotas that the Premier League will never accept, the most powerful lever of change is beyond his reach: getting England’s overpaid kids to take a leap into the unfamiliar, go abroad and play some real football. It is precisely what Bellerin has done.

“I got the chance and I took it,” he recently told the Spanish paper Marca. “Wherever you are, you have to work. If I’d stayed at Barcelona, I don’t know if I’d have made it to the elite, you just never know.”

With only two kids to keep him out, the right-hand side of Arsenal’s defence was meant to be the Debuchy show this year. When he has been fit, he has delivered, but such occasions have been rare.

He is expected to return to full fitness shortly, and it would be a surprise were he not to feature before the end of the season. But the most important story emerging from that corner of the pitch will be Hector Bellerin’s, by far the most unlikely tale of all.