Five months after his arrival at Arsenal, Çedric has finally made his first appearance in the famous red and white shirt. Could the Portuguese international turn out to be the man who fixes Mikel Arteta’s issues at right-back?
The way Hector Bellerìn has been scapegoated in recent times by Arsenal is typical of the toxic division of our fanbase. There always has to be someone to be attacked. Whilst I have developed a degree of sympathy for the Spaniard, and completely condemn the weekly ridiculing of 25-year-old after every Arsenal match, it’s undeniable that he seems to be a little off the pace right now.
To be fair to Bellerìn, recovering from an ACL injury is never easy. Research suggests that it takes over 2 years before side to side symmetry returns and fear of movement subsides after sustaining the devastating ligament injury. And quite frankly, some are suggesting that he’s been much worse than he actually has been lately. His defensive positioning is good, he’s regained some of his pace after the restart and his overall defensive play has been pretty faultless.
However, it is clear that it is the offensive contribution that Bellerìn is currently lacking. Prior to the game against Norwich, he seemed incredibly reluctant to even cross the half-way line. Just 2 passes to Nicholas Pépé against Southampton showed his ineffectiveness with regard to bring the Ivorian into the game. Then against Norwich, he did manage to get into some decent offensive areas, but his decision making really let him down.
Bellerìn will get back to his best. The club should not consider selling the Spaniard this Summer. But at the moment, he is not quite ready to be our first choice right-back. Perhaps after a strong pre-season, experiencing some valuable competition for his spot and spending a bit of time on the training pitch with Mikel Arteta, Bellerìn will be ready. Until then, he may have to settle for back-up.
This is where Çedric Soares comes into the conversation. A player who has a European Championship on his CV and vast Premier League experience with Southampton. Even before yesterday’s game, he became a bit of a cult hero among Arsenal fans. Unfortunately, this was for the wrong reasons.
If it weren’t for the extension of the Premier due to its 3 month break enforced by the pandemic, it’s likely that Arsenal fans wouldn’t have seen Çedric in an Arsenal shirt until the 2020/21 campaign. Thus, his loan spell with us was being likened to that of Denis Suarez’s at Arsenal last season. For those who don’t remember, Suarez’s stint at the club was severely injury hampered meaning he didn’t start a competitive game for us.
Therefore, for Çedric, the COVID-19 induced extension is something of a blessing in disguise. After a promising debut against Norwich which involved a superb goal from range, Çedric is now in a position to be able to prove himself to Mikel Arteta. He should be doing all he can to show Arteta that he should be starting in the remainder of Arsenal’s games this season.
Çedric is currently our most experienced option in the right-back role and is adaptable enough to be able to play as both a full-back and wing-back. This means he’ll be able to operate in both the 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 systems our Spanish head coach has favoured since the restart.
The Portuguese international is an offensively oriented player meaning that theoretically, he should be able to get the most out of Nico Pépé who likes to have an attacking-minded full-back behind him. Çedric on the overlap will enable Pépé to drift inside and play as more of an inside forward. Çedric’s crossing ability may also help to get more out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s new-found aerial threat coming in from the left.
On top of this, Cedric’s added threat going forward on the right makes up for the lack of threat Dani Ceballos poses upfield. Ceballos’ preference to operate from deep alongside Granit Xhaka rather than in and around Pépé has been a slight issue for Mikel Arteta. An offensively effective Çedric Soares should go some way towards nullifying this issue.
I for one am a huge fan of Hector Bellerìn. He is undoubtedly captain material and he is Arsenal through. When he’s at his best, he is also undoubtedly our best right-back. At the moment, this may not be the case. After finally recovering from his lingering injury issues, Çedric deserves a chance to show what he’s got. The onus is now on the former Southampton full-back to grab the opportunity with both hands and cement his place in the starting XI for the remainder of this campaign.