Hector Bellerin has returned to London after training with the Spanish U21 national team during the international break and his social media may offer a few clues about why he ultimately withdrew from the squad.
After Bellerin was tackled by Tottenham’s Danny Rose in the North London Derby on Sunday he sustained a slight strain to one of his ankles. The Daily Mail reports that Bellerin “was hopeful the problem would resolve itself as he trained with the Spanish U21 squad this week.” Bellerin’s comments suggest that his withdrawal is a precaution so that the strain does not result in a prolonged problem. He was replaced on the squad by Atletico Madrid defender Javier Manquillo, who is currently on loan at Sunderland. Bellerin is scheduled to meet with Arsenal physicians on Thursday to evaluate his ankle and determine if he will need to miss any time. On his Snapchat account Bellerin also showed that he had some deep bruising to his right ear. This is definitely uncomfortable but it would not cause him to miss any games.
Bellerin is expected to remain in the starting eleven when Arsenal resumes play against Manchester United on November 19th. Reports have emerged that Alexis sustained a muscle tear in one his calf muscles when training with the Chilean national team, but the Football Federation in Chile has not ruled him out from playing in Chile’s upcoming World Cup qualifier against Uruguay. The severity of Alexis’ injury is unknown but he is expected to miss several games. More information will be available about the extent of Bellerin’s injury when he is evaluated tomorrow but a negative diagnosis would exacerbate an already difficult situation for Arsenal. Between the match at Manchester United and the match at Manchester City on December 18th, there are few opportunities to rest key players. The upcoming matches would pose a significant challenge for Arsenal if they do not have the services of Bellerin and Alexis.
Although it is unlikely that Bellerin will need time beyond the international break to recover, Arsenal may need to consider a potential replacement in case he is unavailable. Let's look at the players that Arsene Wenger could select as a temporary replacement at right-back (clearly, the order of these players would vary based upon different matchups):
- Carl Jenkinson – Carl Jenkinson would likely be the first choice to replace Bellerin since right-back is his natural position. Jenkinson performed well in his first start this season in the League Cup against Reading, and while he was on the field for both of Ludogorets’ goals in the 3-2 Champions League win last week he wasn’t any more to blame than anyone else.
- Rob Holding – Even though Holding is not a natural right-back, he is a fit defender who has experience in the Premier League this season. He would be capable of filling in for one or two games if called upon, but his youth and the fact he’s not really a right back probably prevent him from receiving further consideration.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles – Now the depth gets slightly more difficult to project. Ainsley is mainly an attacking player but has played in a defensive role at the youth and senior levels. The Arsenal youngster has appeared in one game this season at right-back already, against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup. His lack of senior experience as a defender makes him an unlikely substitute unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Mathieu Debuchy – Mathieu Debuchy is still on this team! Unfortunately, Debuchy’s age and lack of recent experience mean that he will probably not be selected unless all other able bodied substitutes are injured or otherwise unavailable.
With all of these possible replacements in mind, it is still highly unlikely that Bellerin will be out of the lineup for an extended period of time. Hopefully he can use the extra time off during the international break to receive treatment and rest so that he can continue his strong play this season.