Things are looking up for Arsenal at the moment following five consecutive wins for the first time this season and, according to a Manchester United legend, one of the brightest spots in their resurgence has been one young player's emergence.
Gary Neville has made a name for himself as the Premier League's leading pundit since hanging up his boots at Old Trafford and joining broadcaster Sky Sports. So, the praise he heaped on Hector Bellerin for his recent form will provide a warm feeling for the Gunners' 19-year-old.
Perhaps, as Neville admitted, it was a case of "right-back's union" but while most people were heaping praise on the likes of Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott, the England coach decided to concentrate on Bellerin's rapid improvement.
The gist of the praise was the transformation of the former Barcelona youth academy star's game defensively from his earlier performances this season. Being thrown in at the deep end for the poor defeat away to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, Bellerin returned a new man since the injury to Mathieu Debuchy.
“He was thrust into the team in September and he really struggled, I have to say. He looked like it was too early for him, that [his selection] was more out of necessity than an opportunity for him to be there," Neville said on Sky Sports show Monday Night Football.
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“When you bring a young player what you hope for is that you have not destroyed his confidence to the point whereby he may never come back from it. You hope that he goes away and by the next time he plays, he’s learned from it and he’s matured."
It looked like a nightmare situation for Arsene Wenger when Debuchy was ruled out for three months with a dislocated shoulder - only a few games after returning from a similar period out with ankle ligament damage - as his understudies in Bellerin and Calum Chambers had both looked very shakey.
"...he was massively impressive. He’s lightening quick and that gives you a great chance as a full-back" - Neville
But the Arsenal manager need not have worried because the young Catalonian took his opportunity with both hands in the absence of the first choice right-back and now looks like he has played there for years - it was only his 13th senior competitive appearance.
Bellerin now looks as though he could well develop into a serious challenger with Debuchy for Wenger's long-term first choice in the position. If Arsenal keep winning as they have been recently, it will be hard to leave him out.
Wenger's Men Starting to Come Good
The Gunners' fortunes were turning soon after the abysmal defeat to Southampton on New Year's Day, but their confidence will really have been supercharged by the 2-0 victory away at Manchester City a couple of weeks ago - this is where Neville believe things turned around for Bellerin.
"[Bellerin] got put back in for another big game against Manchester City, and he was massively impressive. He’s lightening quick and that gives you a great chance as a full-back," he added.
“He’s only 19, this boy. I’m not building him up to be the bee’s knees, but think of where he was in September and [how] he has developed in this last month.”
You can watch the full Monday Night Football analysis from Neville and Jamie Carragher by clicking HERE.
Bigger Tests to Come
As Neville says, Bellerin will get another big test on Saturday in the second North London derby of the season. Christian Eriksen has nominally been playing on the right recently for Tottenham and has been in terrific form, so will be a big problem to overcome at White Hart Lane.
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