Arsenal star Hector Bellerin kept up his scintillating form of late as he played a key role in his side’s 3-1 FA Cup third round triumph over Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium this weekend.
It has topped off a simply wonderful year for the 20-year-old, and further highlighted exactly why he is rightly regarded as one of the outstanding right-backs in the Premier League.
The youngster arrived from Barcelona having come through the Spanish side's famous La Masia academy, following a similar path to Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
He began last season as the club’s third-choice right-back behind Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers, yet an unexpected injury crisis in defence saw him thrust into the first-team picture.
At first Bellerin looked naturally inexperienced, slightly weak in the challenge and often out-muscled by his opponents. At Stoke City last year, he struggled badly to contain the Potters.
However, he has since gone from strength to strength and now he looks every bit the complete right-back. He is solid defensively, positioned well and offers a considerable attacking threat down the right.
He is arguably the quickest player in the league over 40 metres, and his frightening pace was best illustrated by his assist for Mesut Ozil in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Bayern Munich.
Against Sunderland, the Spanish youngster was again bombing down the right flank and Sam Allardyce’s men had no answer to his endeavour and energy as he assisted two of his side’s three goals.
Right-backs rarely get mentioned when it comes to standout players, yet Bellerin’s performances make it hard not to appreciate his talents and that is what stands him apart from the rest at present.
The Gunners know they have a real player on their hands, yet in the long term they must know that a potential return to Barcelona to replace Dani Alves is a very realistic proposition.