Former Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin is proud of the academy graduates prospering at the Emirates, and believes the Gunners will improve every year under Mikel Arteta.
The right-back joined Arsenal as a 16-year-old from Barcelona, making his first team debut two years later.
With over 180 appearances in the Premier League during his nine years at the club, Bellerin became a key figure in the side and was named in the Premier League Team of the Season in 2015/16.
After leaving Arsenal in 2022, the Spaniard had brief spells at Barcelona and Sporting Lisbon before settling down at Real Betis in July this year.
“I felt that the last two, three years of my life were a bit coming and going, and not really knowing what’s going to happen next season. So I’m very happy to finally be here for the next four years at least. This season, we are finding it quite tough to find our feet at the moment but it’s a top club, with top players and top support we have got over here,” Bellerin said.
The 28-year-old played under Arsene Wenger for the majority of his career at the club, playing with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Bukayo Saka. He admits he misses his former team-mates and the backroom staff too.
“From the players, obviously Bukayo (Saka), Eddie (Nketiah), Gabi (Martinelli) – I’ve shared loads of moments with them, and I’ve seen Bukayo and Reiss (Nelson) go through the ranks. To me, I feel very proud of them. But it’s also the staff, the people that have been there since I moved into the first team at 18 years old.”
Having won three FA Cup titles and two Community Shields with Arsenal, Bellerin explained what he remembers most about his time there and why he made the decision to leave.
“My most vivid memories are always the trophies. But not the game itself but more the parades, the conversations, the moments that you live with your team-mates.
“Leaving Arsenal was such a tough decision. A lot of people felt like I really wanted to leave that place, but it was just a change of cycle for me because I love Arsenal. I loved my time over there, I loved the staff, the support I always got there, and playing at the Emirates for me every weekend was a dream. I just felt like at that time of my life, this was more what I needed,” he said.
Bellerin also played alongside current manager Mikel Arteta during his career at the club. Both joined Arsenal in 2011 and became close in their relationship on and off the pitch. Arteta then went on to manage Bellerin at Arsenal before his move to Barcelona.
“Mikel is such a great coach. He’s been my team-mate and he was great. He’s a wonderful coach and I’m glad they’re finding the way to play that the coach has always wanted. He’s found the right players and he’s found the support from the fans again,”
“The transition from Wenger’s Arsenal to the Arsenal we have now needed a lot of time. It needed different coaches, needed different players, and needed its own identity because Arsenal always had its own identity under Wenger. It’s difficult to play under that identity when you don’t really have that reference, or you don’t have those players. So sometimes things need to switch, and you need to play different football,” said Bellerin.
Arteta’s side finished second last season, with only five points separating them from league winners Manchester City. Bellerin believes his former team-mate is ever-evolving and will make sure his side is better this season going forward.
“He’s a coach that is always constantly learning and I think that’s what’s good about him. He’s able to adapt and learn from his mistakes. He’s able to become a new Arteta every season.
“Since he was a player, he was already coaching some of us. You could see he had great ideas and I remember he used to talk to us about how he thinks the game would go and how we should press and stuff like this and it was great. We all knew that at some point he would step up and be a manager.” the Spain international said.
Bellerin trusts that the style of football Arsenal are now playing will help them lift the Premier League trophy one day and that the players are on the right path to success.
“Very young players in that team now have a lot of experience, like Bukayo himself, and I think that was one of the things that they were missing that now they have.
“So, I’m sure that every year is just going to be a better one for them and I think that’s where Arsenal Football club deserve to be, for sure.”