Young Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin has had a breakthrough season this year and has been playing very well, but Arsene Wenger is ready to drop him from the starting line-up this weekend.
The Gunners face Reading in the semi-finals of the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday evening and will be expected to ease into the final to defend the trophy they won last year, but Bellerin will not be part of the starting XI.
According to the the Daily Star, Wenger will put Mathieu Debuchy straight into the line-up against the Championship side after he made a full recovery from the dislocated shoulder that has kept him out for the past three months.
While this may be a disappointment for Bellerin, the report claims that the Arsenal manager's decision is being informed by his belief that the 20-year-old is due a rest. Although the weight of the occasion could also be having an effect on the move to drop him.
Wenger knows well how the pressure of being runaway favourites for an FA Cup semi-final against opposition from the league below can affect performance. The Gunners needed a late Per Mertesacker equaliser and a penalty shoot-out to beat Wigan Atheltic at this stage last season.
Debuchy only arrived last summer in a £12million deal from Newcastle United, but the 29-year-old is an experienced France international and knows well how to handle the pressure of such a situation.
It has been an unfortunate year for the former Lille star, who has suffered two long term injuries. Ankle ligament damage from an awkward landing where no opponent was near him, and another awkward fall after a small push from Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic, which led to the shoulder dislocation.
When he has actually played, Debuchy has looked at home in the Gunners' defence and should go back into the starting XI without too many problems. Reading can be quite a direct side and the Frenchman is superior in the air to his young counterpart, so should handle any aerial battle more effectively.
Changing of the Guard?
However, such has been Bellerin's form this season, there is a genuine question over who is the first choice right-back in Wenger's preferred starting XI. Some teething problems have been overcome and the former Barcelona youth star is now looking more like a rounded full-back.
While Debuchy's defensive instincts and experience make him a more solid choice, Bellerin's blistering pace and more natural attacking verve give the Gunners a different dimension going forward - his goal to open the scoring in the 4-2 thrashing of Liverpool is a perfect example.
There can be little doubt that the long-term option for the role must be Bellerin and, if he stays, he can cement that starting spot come next season. For the moment, Wenger is right to rest him and take him out of the limelight and give him a breather.
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