Premier League

Possible Replacements If Héctor Bellerín Leaves Arsenal

 • by Andrew Gibney
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Transfer rumours will come and go, some have merit, some are instantly forgettable. Linked with a move to Barcelona in the summer, Arsenal right-back Héctor Bellerín, will always be tempted with a return home.

The 21-year-old was born in the Catalan city, playing for eight years in the Blaugrana’s youth system. He has also been a transfer target for Manchester City in the past and the lure of Pep Guardiola will also be an attraction.

If he does leave the Emirates this summer, Arsenal and whoever is in charge, will need to find a replacement.

Several names have been mentioned as possible transfers at the end of the season, but we have looked at five options, and how they match up to the Spanish international.

Thomas Meunier: Paris Saint-Germain

Thomas Meunier of Paris Saint-Germain tackles Jordi Alba

The Belgian impressed recently as the French champions beat Barcelona 4-0 at the Parc des Princes. The 25-year-old joined from Club Brugge following the European Championships and, after waiting for his chance, has been excellent when recently.

In 24 appearances this season, he’s scored twice and added five assists, including a superb run to set up Edinson Cavani for the fourth goal against Barca.

Playing in a similar style to Arsenal, Meunier sees a little more of the ball than the Spaniard, making 43.8 passes per 90 minutes. This term he has also averaged higher in terms of interceptions, recoveries and defending duels.

The Belgian makes nearly double the number of fouls compared to Bellerin and is slightly less attacking.

Meunier is in a battle with Serge Aurier for the starting spot, but with the Ivorian being younger, he could be the horse that PSG back in the summer.

Ricardo Pereira: OGC Nice/FC Porto

On loan for a second season at OGC Nice, Portuguese wing-back Ricardo Pereira has been a huge part of Les Aiglons success under Lucien Favre.

Injuries have hampered his progress at times, but he’s made 22 appearances and has three assists in the league.

Nice love to play the ball out from the back and, whether it’s 3-5-2 or 4-2-3-1, Ricardo is willing to play down the entire flank and has the engine to do it for the whole game.

He is the most attacking of the six players mentioned, successful completing 3.9 duels going forward and 5.4 one-on-one dribbles per 90 minutes.

The 23-year-old makes 47.2 passes on average, with 93 per cent of them in a positive manner. He still makes more interceptions than Bellerin, and recovers more situations too, with 2.5 to the Spaniards 1.6.

Bernardo: RB Leipzig

Bernardo of RB Leipzig is challenged by Filip Kostic of Hamburger SV

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The Brazilian full-back moved from RB Salzburg to Leipzig in the summer and has been part of the newly promoted side climbing up the Bundesliga table.

With 23 appearances this term, he has yet to register an assist, but it’s his defensive contribution that marks him out as a possible target for Arsenal.

He wins more defensive duels, has more interceptions per 90 minutes, and recovers the ball more than any of the others. Bernardo does average more fouls, but that is to be expected with the work he does off-the-ball.

Still just 21 years old, he is very capable of getting forward too, with 3.4 successful attacking duels per 90 minutes. That’s more than Bellerin and Malcuit.

Kévin Malcuit: Saint-Etienne

Paul Pogba of Manchester United is closed down by Kevin Malcuit of Saint-Etienne

Heavily linked with a move to West Ham United in the summer, the attention over Malcuit has increased recently. He proved against Manchester United that, despite losing 4-0 on aggregate, he can cope on the biggest stage, putting in a positive performance at Old Trafford.

The full-back has been much more involved this season under Christophe Galtier, making 28 appearances. Able to play in a 3-5-2 or back four, he’s very capable going forward, but loves a tackle too.

He matches up with Ricardo in terms of attacking, topping the table for one-on-one dribbles. He only makes 32.7 passes per game, but that is down to Saint-Etienne’s defensive style.

The 25-year-old Frenchman still manages 5.2 interceptions and 1.8 recovery tackles and comes second in terms of defensive duels, on average 2.7 more than Bellerin.

Elseid Hysaj: SSC Napoli

Elseid Hysaj of SSC Napoli in action during the TIM Cup match between SSC Napoli and ACF Fiorentina

Often a transfer target for Manchester United and other top European clubs, the Albanian full-back has been playing at a high level since he came through the ranks at FC Empoli in 2012.

Earning a move to Napoli in 2015, the 23-year-old hasn’t slowed down.

In Serie A, he has shown a great range of passing and is a very good one-on-one defender. He’s strong, good in the air and an all-round warrior.

With just two assists in 30 appearances this campaign, he could do more on the attacking side, but only Ricardo makes more passes per 90 minutes. His attacking numbers don’t quite match up to the others with 2.9 attacking duels made. However, his interceptions are up at 5.2 per 90 and only makes 0.8 fouls – only Bellerin makes fewer.

Conclusion

If Bellerin does decide to leave Arsenal at the end of the season. Ricardo seems like the perfect fit in terms of style and what he offers in the final third. Both clubs play a similar way, and Arsenal wouldn’t lose pace with the Portuguese wing-back.

Bernardo would be an excellent defensive option, but having only moved in last summer, he’d be hard to prize away. Porto are a selling club, so it wouldn’t take a ridiculous offer to bring Ricardo to London at the end of the season.

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