How Bellerin was transformed into jet-heeled marauder

Hector Bellerin

Hector Bellerin has pace to burn. Indeed, if he weren’t out injured his lightning quick speed would no doubt cause opponents a few problems later on today (Tuesday) when the Gunners take part in a friendly against Al-Nasr in Dubai.

The fact remains that he is still sidelined (although he has returned to the Gunners training HQ at London Colney) after successful knee surgery in Spain to fix his ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury — which he suffered in Arsenal’s 2-0 Premier League win over Chelsea back in January.

Yet the defender’s admirable pace wouldn’t always be the first attribute fans would have thought of unless special attention had been paid to his running style, power and sharpness when he was transformed from a winger to a full-back.

The change came about almost as soon as he joined the club from Barcelona in 2011, the official club website reports. Arsenal’s academy head of sports medicine and athletic development Des Ryan says the youngster would not have developed into the speed merchant he is now without a lot of hard graft and commitment.

He revealed: “He was a high-level player from the word go, and we knew we could help the progress of his natural talent with the benefits of sports medicine and athletic development, particularly in the area of movement, skills and strength.

“We used programmes based around functional competence, mobility stability, flexibility and running technique. We knew his natural talent could help him develop even further in the areas of speed repeatability and top-end speed, and Hector was a player who applied himself to this.

“In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s Hector who’s got himself to where he is with the commitment that he puts into the training programmes, we just provided the care, the challenge and the support.”

Ryan adds that he remembers that he would conduct speed tests and also filmed Bellerin to assess his running technique, adding: “It was clear from the early videos that there was potential there. You could see energy leaks side to side when Hector was running, so if we could tidy that up and show him different exercises, we knew we could make him even faster.

“Initially we worked with him on his flexibility because if there are particular joints that are tight and less mobile, there are exercises that we can do to loosen those up. Once he’d done those exercises, it increased his stride so he was able to get from point A to point B much faster. Then he did a lot of work with our physios and conditioners in the areas of mobility and stability, before gradually easing into strength to develop his power.

“Let me be clear that this was an evolution not a revolution because he was already very fast! He was already very talented but we’re very proud of him for what he’s achieved through his hard work, and he’s now become one of the fastest players in the fastest league in the world.”

It remains unclear just when Bellerin will be full match fit. What is for certain is that it won’t be in time for the Gunners’ next Premier League match when they host Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium on April 1.