Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has heaped praise on Spanish full-back Hector Bellerin for the impressive manner in which he has developed since his "nightmare" debut against Borussia Dortmund in September.
The 19-year-old was thrown into the deep end against the German club in the Champions League group stages as Arsenal slumped to a 2-0 defeat.
Bellerin looked out of his depth at Signal Iduna Park but has come on in leaps and bounds in recent months.
Wenger hails Bellerin after 'nightmare' debut
And during Sunday's 5-0 victory over Aston Villa, the Spain Under-19 international scored his first professional goal, prompting Wenger to wax lyrical about the young full-back.
"It's great - I'm pleased for him," Wenger was quoted as saying by the Express. "He grows from game to game, he's more confident and he has that electric pace even in the last minute, to go past people and to get crosses in.
"Defensively, he has improved a lot.
"Considering his first game, at Dortmund, and what I think of him today, that's credit to him, because he had a bit of a nightmare away from home in Dortmund.
"When you see what he has produced today, you can only say 'well done and continue to keep your priorities right - defend well, go forward when you can,' and he's doing that well."
Gary Neville also praises Bellerin
Wenger's sentiments were echoed this week by former Manchester United captain Gary Neville, who has been impressed with the maturity shown by Bellerin this season.
“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.
“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."
Bellerin set for hectic few weeks
Bellerin has 11 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners this season, following injuries to Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Nacho Monreal.
The Spaniard is currently deputising for Debuchy, who is expected to return in late March after undergoing a shoulder operation.
This means Bellerin is likely to be selected for Arsenal's Champions League last-16 double header against AS Monaco, as well as the Gunners' crunch Premier League fixtures over the forthcoming weeks.
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