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2016-17 Arsenal Roster Evaluation: Fullback

Since the 2014-15 season, Arsenal have been set on a preferred pairing alongside their center backs. Is change needed for next season?

Arsenal fullbacks Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal
Arsenal fullbacks Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal
Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images

Héctor Bellerín broke into Arsenal’s first team in the 2014-15 season. Since doing so for the last three years, we’ve featured his breakneck speed on the right with Nacho Monreal‘s pragmatism on the left as the preferred fullback pairing.

With Arsenal having already given up more goals than any season since 2011-12 with four league games remaining, is a change on the sides required this summer?

First Team

Héctor Bellerín

Héctor “the Vector Protector” came over as a youth transfer from Barcelona in 2011, breaking through the starting XI wall in the 2014-15 season with injuries scattered across the roster in front of him. He has since racked up 78 starts offering a blend of pace and tenacity that has propelled him into the ranks among the best young right backs in world soccer at just 22-years old.

While he’s under contract through the 2022-23 season, Arsenal supporters will no doubt keep an eye out for the whispers coming out of Catalonia. Much like Cesc Fàbregas who left Arsenal for Barcelona six years ago, the rumors have continued to circulate re: Bellerín returning to play for his home club.

Nacho Monreal

Bellerín’s compatriot on the left side, Monreal was half of the Malaga double-poaching that included Santi Cazorla in the 2012-13 season. He has taken on the favored selection nod over fellow LB Kieran Gibbs.

Now 31-years old, it’s fair to wonder how much Monreal has left to provide at this level. He’s under contract for another two years, but it’s hard to see him getting to that point without some challenge coming in.

Kieran Gibbs

Would it surprise you that Gibbs is Arsenal’s second-most tenured player after Theo Walcott?

Gibbs moved to Arsenal’s academy in 2004 when Wimbledon became Milton Keynes Dons. Three years later, he broke into the first team and featured regularly in recent years, though he’s started just six games this year.

At 27-years old, does he play out the final year of his contract into next summer without issue?

Carl Jenkinson

Jenkinson arrived in 2011 to support Bacary Sagna and found significant playing time in the three years following. The ascendancy of Bellerín left him a bit extraneous. Thus, Arsenal found space to loan him out to West Ham for two seasons before bringing him back in the fold this season. He’s seen the field just five times in all competitions this year, though.

Mathieu Debuchy


On Loan

Calum Chambers

Young Hollister Cal came aboard three years ago from Southampton. With Jenkinson back in the squad for emergency depth, Chambers has been loaned out to Middlesbrough this year where he has started 22 games in the league to fair standard receiving public praise from the current interim manager.

His contract with Arsenal is up at the end of the month.



I’m not sold on the immediacy of any of the options, though there’s plenty of space for growth next year in players like Jordi Osei-Tutu and Cohen Bramall.

Transfer Market

Likelihood of signing: 7.5/10

Between Nacho’s age, Barcelona’s Bellerín thirst, the relative confusion behind the two and a lack of academy support, I see activity as being more likely than not this summer. Consider the noise growing behind the Sead Kolašinac rumor. Even if the young German-Bosnian doesn’t join, the churning behind the rumor indicates the importance of addressing the position especially on the left side in this window.

The Bellerín-Monreal partnership has served Arsenal for years. It appears headed for a close. With the uncertainty at the managerial position, it’s impossible to gauge how things will be sorted out at fullback. Change, though, is the likely bet.

So far, we’ve covered goalkeepers, center backs and now fullbacks. One random note? Arsenal have allowed 42 goals in the Premier League, more than any season since 2011-12...and there are four games remaining. Clearly, the setup this year at the back has not worked to optimum results, though I suppose you could point at the absence of Per Mertesacker as an overriding excuse as to partly the reason why. Nonetheless, stasis isn’t an option, and for that reason, this will be an interesting summer for the Arsenal back line.