The main function of a leader is to positively influence the squad, something which Hector Bellerin has done on and off the pitch. He can become Mikel Arteta’s most influential player for Arsenal.
As Covid-19 restrictions begin to ease, we welcome back the Premier League and with it a yearning sense of normality. For Arsenal fans, this brings a hopeful yet worrisome reminder of Mikel Arteta’s attempts and struggles to positively instil his influence at the club.
How they perform over the remainder of the season will either help them regain the lofty status associated with the football club, or cause them to slip closer to the precipice of mediocrity.
Arteta was tasked with quenching the fires left behind from fellow Spaniard Unai Emery when taking over as manager in December. His effect on the club was evident from the start, a change of attitude, tactics and mentality could be seen.
But as the 38-year-old tries to instil change at the Emirates during this everchanging time, we are reminded once again of the revolving problem which has governed the club for years.
It is not outrageous to claim that Arsenal’s last great captain was Arteta himself, after being handed the armband for the first time only a year after signing for the Gunners.
Since then, the club’s list of captains left a lot to be desired, to say the least. This current crop of players arguably lack the leaders needed to implement his fundamentals and ideas fully at the club, Arteta needs a representative of himself within the squad.
Mikel Arteta: “I was always an admirer of the club since I was young. I always admired the style of play & what they were transmitting. When Arsène gave me the opportunity, it was the highlight. Since then, I became in love with the club, I’ve very strong feelings.” ❤️ #afc pic.twitter.com/VH6ua32Gkc
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) June 14, 2020
This lack of leadership was personified during Emery’s time at the club when he elected a five-man leadership group. This five consisted of a now ex-captain who was booed and stripped of the armband, the highest-paid earner at the club whose demeanour insults rather than inspires, a star player and current captain who won’t commit to the club, a confidence reliant French striker and Hector Bellerin.
When we think of a conventional leader, we envision the looming presence of a Patrick Viera, or the aggression of a Roy Keane important. A leader is not best described by his ability to shout, snarl and snap at players, although these qualities are important or perceived to be.
The main function of a leader is to positively influence the squad, something which Bellerin has done on and off the pitch.
We stand together pic.twitter.com/rTOHtiIbJP
— Héctor Bellerín (@HectorBellerin) June 11, 2020
“People may not see me as this massive guy who shouts on the pitch all the time or what people may have as a captain in their heads, but there are so many different ways of leading a team,” the 25-year-old told the Arsenal website.
Now standing as vice-captain, he may not be perceived as your conventional leader. You probably would not see Tony Adams strutting down a Paris catwalk dripping from head to toe in a pink Louis Viton outfit or expressing his thoughts on climate change. But then again, Bellerin has never been conventional.
Mental health advocate, business owner and social activist, these are some of the words least associated with your average footballer, but which correlate directly to the Spanish right back. Since joining the club from Barcelona in 2012 as a 16-year-old, to standing as one of the clubs longest serving players, Bellerin has always held himself in a positive and mature light.
Héctor Bellerín has pledged to plant 3,000 trees for every match Arsenal win until the end of the season, in partnership with global charity ‘One Tree Planted’.
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) June 17, 2020
A minimum requirement for a captain and something which has agonisingly been missing from Arsenal and most modern players vocabularies is loyalty. Bellerin had his best season in 2016 when he made it into the PFA Team of the year and attracted attention from sporting giants like Barcelona and Manchester City.
Quashing these rumours immediately, however, the right-back demonstrated his loyalty to the club signing six-and-a-half-year contract, winning the hearts of many Arsenal fans who were used to players jumping ship at the first sign of rain. Although injuries have stunted his playing time at the Emirates since that season, Bellerin has shown he can have just as much influence off the pitch as on it.
Bellerin co-founded his own business called, ‘B-Engaged’ with his best friend after enrolling in a six-month online course at the University of Philadelphia to pursue a marketing diploma.
The business serves to help connect athletes with global brands with the ambition to protect and maximise their profiles and works with major brands like Calvin Klein, Adidas, and Call of Duty. He has shown the power to influence not only his team but a whole generation of players.
Bellerin became the first active Premier League player to speak at an Oxford Union talk in 2018. It is rare to see a footballer express themselves in a post-match interview on their own sport, as articulately as the 25-year-old did on a range of social topics. You’d be forgiven to think he’s lived in London his entire life; such is the quality of his English and the strength of his cockney accent.
Bellerin has already shown what an asset he can be to Arteta in the short period since he has taken over. When the former Arsenal midfielder found himself in an uncomfortable situation, positioned between board and players to implement the Covid-19 wage cuts, the teams PFA elected representative Bellerin helped ease negotiations.
Also, working alongside Seamus Coleman and Troy Deeney, Bellerin led a group of captains to discuss with the Premier League plans to increase support for the Black lives Matter movement, when the season resumes.
The 25-year-old may not have the presence of Viera, or aggression of Keane, but has shown that he possesses’ the ability to bring people together and inspire change. The dressing room at the Emirates has never felt so divided and needs this now more than ever.
Now that Bellerin is back to full fitness, what he can do to bring the squad together under Arteta and help this team to transition forward to a Champions League challenging side is crucial. In a world where so many footballers take a backseat, it is refreshing to have somebody willing to take a stand.