Hector Bellerin was stretchered from the Emirates pitch during Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over London rivals Chelsea on Saturday after the Spaniard stretched to win a ball against Marcos Alonso.
Bellerin looked to be in absolute agony on the pitch and the club has now confirmed that he will be out for six to nine months.
Return to form under Emery
Bellerin has been a huge asset to Unai Emery’s side this season and has looked particularly comfortable in a system that has required him to play the ball out from the back, whereas other players have struggled.
The Spanish international is particularly useful in attack, with his blistering pace allowing him to burst forward and provide an outlet on the right-wing for the Gunners and has seen him register five assists in 19 games in the Premier League this season.
Bellerin has been a mainstay in the Arsenal side over the last four seasons and has often been the standout player in a suspect Arsenal backline and despite some of his defensive fragilities, he has continued to develop his game under Emery this season.
Replacement for Bellerin
It appears highly unlikely that the Gunners will dip into the January transfer market to replace the injured Bellerin after Emery revealed that the club would only be able to bring in loan signings during this window.
Therefore, the most obvious replacements at right-back appear to be Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Stephan Lichtsteiner. Both offer plenty of different attributes and the two are likely to be rotated throughout the rest of the season with Arsenal still involved in the FA Cup and Europa League as well as the Premier League.
Maitland-Niles has been deployed in several different positions since making his debut for Arsenal in the 2014/15 season. With plenty of competition among the ranks in Maitland-Niles favoured position of central midfield, it is likely that Emery will choose him as his starting right-back in the coming weeks in the Premier League.
Maitland-Niles is also blessed with pace, similar to Bellerin, making him a force when attacking down the wing. The 21-year-old is also noted for his tremendous composure on the ball, an asset that will certainly come in handy when implementing Emery’s style of football.
Lichtsteiner, on the other hand, has struggled to adapt to the pace and intensity of the Premier League since arriving on a free transfer from Juventus in the summer. At 35 years of age, his wealth of experience is likely to be of paramount importance to the dressing room and the teaching he can pass onto the younger generation.
However, it is unlikely that Lichtsteiner will have much more of an impact to make on the field during the Premier League, but Emery may opt for the Swiss full-back in the cup competitions where rotation will be key for the Gunners.