Ox injury opens the door for Hector Bellerin + Arsecast 429


Morning everyone, we’re in that weird place that midweek football leaves you when you’re not sure what the story is for the weekend as players are still recovering from Wednesday night.

The only one we can be relatively sure about is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who looks set to miss out due to a hamstring strain. Arsene Wenger spoke about it after the game against Southampton and sounded – if not cautiously optimistic – relatively hopeful it wasn’t a really serious one.

He said:

He is walking properly. It was tight, but it was not a knife. I didn’t see any incident where he had to stop in a sprint. It was more fatigue.

So, it’s not like when Lukas Podolski did his a couple of seasons back and ended up spending three of four months out, but even a mild strain is usually around three weeks, making the FA Cup final less assured than it had been for the Ox.

When you read how badly he took it when he missed out on the 2014 final, you can’t hope for anything other than a quick recovery for him. The positive thing from our point of view is that his obvious replacement, Hector Bellerin is a fantastic talent, and maybe this is the thing he needs to get himself going again.

In this season when things have been difficult, people’s patience with players has been tested to the limits, and I can understand why. I get folks have had enough of certain players who have underachieved again. What I have found a little hard to get my head around is how quickly people have been able to write off the likes of Bellerin, and even Granit Xhaka.

Tim Stillman writes about the Swiss international in his column this week, but when stories about Barcelona’s interest in the Spaniard started doing the rounds – belched out into the online ether by the ever mischievous Catalan press – it was a surprise to me that so many comments accompanied our coverage of them which were of the ‘Fine, let him go, he’s expendable anyway’ variety.

Let’s step back to the start of this season and Arsenal had the most exciting young right-back in Europe on their hands. There were few complaining back in November when he signed a new six year deal, but around that time he picked up an ankle injury and missed around a month. Carl Jenkinson was quickly deemed an unsuitable replacement, and although Gabriel played a few games, Bellerin was brought back in and it was pretty obvious he was playing through the pain.

The lightning pace was not quite so lightning, he looked hampered, hindered by the ankle, and at the same time Arsenal’s decline from a team that went 19 games unbeaten to one who looked like they could barely win a game began.

He got knocked unconscious at Stamford Bridge, and the reaction to that from many – not just half-witted pundits who should know better either – was that he should man up. There were suggestions he was faking injury to leave the pitch after just 13 minutes because he knew Arsenal were going to lose. A reminder:

So what we have is a hugely promising young player suffering an injury from which he took time to fully recover (if he actually has), playing in a team which is struggling, who was then knocked into kingdom come during a game, and who has also endured a loss of form. He’s not even alone in that regard when it comes to the squad this season.

So, why is that so hard for some people to understand? If there’s righteous anger to be directed at many things this season, Hector Bellerin is so far down the list. Like, if it was a Google search he’d be on page four or something, and we know nobody goes as far as page four on a search.

While some of the newspaper speculation is just that, there’s a reason why clubs like Barcelona and Man City are interested, so it’s worth paying attention to that. Wanting rid of Bellerin is very much throwing the baby out with the bath-water. Whatever the future of this club is, and I’m as in the dark as any of you, he’s got to be a big part of it, so let’s hope he gets the support he both deserves and needs in the coming weeks. The big issues go way beyond him.

Right, time now for this week’s Arsecast, and with me to discuss the week that was, with two wins, two clean sheets, and all the rest is Jim Campbell from The Football Ramble. We chat about on and off the pitch goings-on, boardroom stuff, Arsene Wenger and more. There’s also a bumper sized lot of the usual waffle including the manager pretending not to know what a Director of Football is, musical earworms, more *boilk* mug competitions and some Holy God FM.

The Football Ramble are doing one of their excellent live shows on Saturday May 27th, if you fancy going on, tickets are on sale here.

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Right, we’ll have all the team news from the manager’s press conference over on Arseblog News this morning. Until then, have a good one and enjoy the podcast.