As the Arsenal season nears its outset, few positions are more set in stone in terms of starters but so uncertain as to depth than the fullback positions. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal cemented their first XI credentials with great campaigns last season, but “who backs them up?” is a question that is still up in the air.
Last season was Bellerin’s first as the undisputed Arsenal right back. He started all but 2 Premier League matches and had a total of 1 goal and 8 assists for the Gunners. No assist was more memorable than his incredible and unbelievably effort in winning the ball back and setting up Mesut Özil for a tap-in to put away Bayern Munich. His impressive performances throughout the season earned him a place in the La Furia Roja squad, though he did not feature in their disappointing Euro 2016 campaign. Look for Hector to continue to develop into one of the better right backs in world football this season.
Nacho Monreal did not play for Spain in Euro 2016, but there were few more Arsenal players who produced consistently very good performances. His spell at centre back seemingly strengthening Monreal’s ability in one v one duels, the 30 year old assisted 4 times, while forming an excellent partnership with Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez. From the left, his crosses were usually excellent, and his choice of final pass set him above his competition, namely Kieran Gibbs.
Gibbs’ best moment last season was scoring the equaliser against Tottenham Hotspur from a left wing position. He then started from the same position against West Bromwich Albion, and started two other times in the Premier League at left back, with the Englishman simply unable to get into the team ahead of Monreal. Rumours linking Gibbs with a move away from the Emirates have persisted this summer, and with his contract due to expire in 2018, it would not be surprising to see Gibbs depart if he is unable to force his way into the team ahead of Monreal.
Mathieu Debuchy is back from his loan at Bordeaux, and many of us wish he wasn’t. Debuchy has never regained any form he had before suffering injury against Stoke City in January 2015, with the 31-year old having a shocking understanding of where he is supposed to stand. Debuchy started two games for Arsenal in the league, and was hauled off in both of them. He also started the 3-0 loss against Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup and the 5-1 loss against Bayern Munich. He’s looked no better in pre-season, being yellow carded against Lens and Chivas, and giving away a penalty against Chivas. Debuchy is linked with a move away from the club and if Héctor Bellerín is out Arsenal will probably play Calum Chambers, Rob Holding or Francis Coquelin at right back, all of whom are probably better than Debuchy as long as they know where to stand.
Or, Carl Jenkinson could be fit again. Jenkinson ruptured his ACL last season, and has been uninvolved in pre-season, as he regains fitness. He suffered the injury in late January, and so should be making a return to football soon. Whether he is still in Arsène Wenger’s plans still remains to be seen, but he can’t be worse than Debuchy.