Mikel Arteta: Hector Bellerin Has Been Playing with 'Discomfort' for 'Months'

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2020

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 07: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on March 07, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images )
Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has said defender Hector Bellerin has been fighting through the pain barrier "for a few months." 

The full-back has endured a challenging spell with injuries recently, making just seven starts in the Premier League in the 2019-20 season. Bellerin had the second half of the previous campaign wrecked due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which delayed the start of 2019-20 for him.

The Gunners have sought to manage his fitness recently, and Bellerin was a late substitute in Saturday's 1-0 win over West Ham United. Speaking to Football.London, the Arsenal boss said Bellerin has been struggling for a while:

"I don't think there is a player now that plays completely free of pain. There is always a niggle, always a pain, always an ankle or something.

"Hector has been having some discomfort for a few months; he has been trying to deal with it all the time, his attitude to try and play and be available has been great, and there is nothing new."

Right-back has been a problem position for the Gunners this season, with neither Arteta nor his predecessor Unai Emery able to field a consistent option in the role.

Not only have they been unable to call on Bellerin for long spells of the season, Calum Chambers suffered a season-ending injury and Cedric Soares has been injured since signing in the January transfer window.

Per Mark Mann-Bryans of the Press Association, Arteta confirmed recently the latter is close to making a return to action though:

Mark Mann-Bryans @MarkyMBryans

Cedric & Mustafi: "I think they will be available to play" #AFC

According to Football.London, "Bellerin suffered a further flare up of his thigh injury in the days ahead of the 4-0 win against Newcastle on February 16, a match in which he played the full 90 minutes."

It's no surprise that Arsenal have been careful with the full-back's fitness. Football writer Tim Stillman commented on how long it can take for players to recover fully from injuries as severe as the one Bellerin suffered last term:

Tim Stillman @Stillberto

Something I wrote about Hector Bellerin and the need for patience with players coming back from ACL injuries. Rob Holding ruptured his a month earlier than Hector and still isn’t playing in the first team. You just have to be patient. https://t.co/r9g2YnufjH

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bellerin hasn't looked at full tilt, as James Dall noted after the 2-1 defeat to Olympiacos in the UEFA Europa League:

James Dall @JamesDall_

Also, Bellerin. Is he OK? Looked shot from the first minute last night.

At 24, the full-back still has time to rediscover his best form, and he'll be desperate to put together a run of games between now and the end of the campaign. If Arteta can find a way of getting Bellerin back to a level approaching his best, the attacking thrust and intensity he provides will give the team a different dimension.

Arsenal were scheduled to be in action in the Premier League on Wednesday at Manchester City, but the match was postponed due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.