As Laurent Koscielny nears the end of his Gunners career, Arsenal will have a big decision to make when he takes the captain’s armband off for the final time.
The 33-year-old is set to enter his tenth season at Emirates Stadium, and as speculation over his immediate future lingers, it highlights the club’s need to appoint a successor to the current skipper.
Looking at Unai Emery’s pool of five captains, the current frontrunner would be Granit Xhaka (with Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey off, and Mesut Ozil’s future up in the air). However, an alternative solution could arguably turn out to be a more inspired choice than the tough-tackling Swiss.
Hector Bellerin has been at Arsenal since he was a boy, and having worked his way up to the first-team and solidifying his place within the side, he knows what it takes to play for The Arsenal.
His performances nowadays are a far cry from the fairly rude awakening he received to life in the senior side with a disastrous showing in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund in 2014.
Establishing himself as a consistent starter in the seasons to come, Bellerin has developed into one of Europe’s most exciting defenders and in doing so, has attracted the interest of his former club Barcelona.
Looking at the current make-up of the Arsenal side, there aren’t going to be many challengers for the armband in a team often criticised for having a lack of leaders.
But Bellerin’s attitude to football and life in general makes him captain material. Captains needn’t be your best player or the loudest voice in the dressing room – one would wager Shkodran Mustafi as a potential pre-match loudmouth – they merely need to be the team’s trustworthy source of motivation and wisdom in good times and bad.
As one of Arsenal’s more vociferous Tweeters, Bellerin clearly has the capacity to influence. He has no problem in speaking up for what he believes in, and translating that onto the football pitch would be an undeniable and rare quality in the Gunners dressing room.
His reputation of being something of a maverick could be the personality that Arsenal need to lead the squad. How many Arsenal players, or even footballers, would you find addressing the Oxford Union? Still only 24, the confidence that the Spaniard shows by embracing the limelight suggests that he can take to the role of captaincy with a fair amount of ease.
With Arsenal’s squad at the point of undergoing major change as the older squad players are linked with exits, the young wave of talent that Arsenal may well have to turn to in times of financial restraint will need a leader.
Now one of the longest-serving members of the squad, Bellerin’s age belies his experience and quality at the top level. New players of all ages will be looking to him for advice as life at Arsenal will now be second nature to him.
As a man who’s grown up an Arsenal player, you don’t sense that he will be swayed elsewhere having rejected the advances of his boyhood club in the same way Xhaka may be tempted with a move away to further his football career.
Instead, there is a sense that Bellerin has found a home at Arsenal, and would put heart and soul into bringing success to it.