Arsenal’s season in review: right back

By Walter Broeckx

Next in our series where we look back at last season we move on to the right back.

A whole lot of data about the main players in that position. At the start of the season all eyes were at Debuchy to step in the footsteps of Sagna. I was one of the few who looked behind Debuchy and said that Bellerin would be the man for that position…in two years. Well I was wrong I must admit… it was more like two months.

I didn’t include Chambers as it is already more than difficult enough to compare two players let alone 3. But he also played at right back. But with Wenger saying that the future of Chambers is more down the middle I decided that we just would stick to the two players who have been playing in the right back position and who have a past and for some certainly a future in this position.

A lot of key facts for both players.

Mathieu Debuchy Hector Bellerin
10 Games Played 20
808 Minutes played 1561
369 Passes 749
79.7% Passing accuracy 83.4%
72.5% Passing accuracy opp. half 80.8%
86 Duels won 92
47 Duels lost 106
64.7% Duels won % 46.5%
45 Aerial Duels won 19
15 Aerial duels lost 32
75% Aerial duels won % 37.3%
56 Recoveries 106
19 Tackles won 31
7 Tackles lost 8
73.1% Tackles won % 79.5%
51 Clearances 44
6 Blocks 5
17 Interceptions 42
1 Penalties conceded 1
10 Fouls won 4
15 Fouls conceded 16
2 Yellow cards 5
0 Red cards 0
1 Goals 2
808 Minutes per goal 780.5
4 Total shots on target 4
3 Total shots off target 0
57.1% Shooting accuracy 100%
0 Successful crosses 10
23 Unsuccessful crosses 62
0% Successful crosses % 13.9%
0 Assists 1
2 Chances created 12
4 Offsides 1


To my surprise Bellerin played almost the double of matches of Debuchy. 10 versus 20. So in many cases we do need to look at the % of some stats because obviously for some numbers it does matter a lot if you have played double the time compared to the other player.

Bellerin having almost double the passes tells us nothing. But looking at the passing accuracy we see that Bellerin is slightly better than Debuchy. And also the passing accuracy in the opposition half it is Bellerin who leads this table with more than 80% compared to the 72% of Debuchy.

If however we look at the duels we see that there is not much difference between the two players numbers but in % it is clear that Debuchy is a much stronger defender having won 64,7% of his duels compared to only 46,5% for Bellerin.  If we only look at Aerial duels we see an even bigger difference. In % Debuchy has won 75% of his aerial duels and Bellerin only 37.3%. Now both players have the same height (1.77m) and so we have to admit that Debuchy is doing much better in this part of the game than Bellerin.

Also when it comes to blocks and clearances the numbers of Debuchy are much better than those of Bellerin. But when it comes to reading the game it is Bellerin who is better at intercepting passes. Even if we look at the numbers of matches we can see that Bellerin is making more than the double of interceptions compared to Debuchy.

Both players have scored goals but they need around 800 minutes to score a goal. Defending is the main task of a defender of course but going forward is very important as a right back also and in going forward I think the stats are very much in favour of Bellerin.

In fact the shooting accuracy of Bellerin is 100% to only 57% for Debuchy. Whenever Bellerin shoots he hits the target and either he scores or the keeper has to save his shot. Bellerin also has better stats with the successful crosses. In fact Debuchy had no successful crosses at all in his 10 matches. Bellerin has just under 14% successful crosses. Both players do have a lot of unsuccessful crosses.

Bellerin had also 1 assist and Debuchy 0. And when it comes to creating chances we see that Bellerin has 12 and Debuchy only 2.

So what does this give as a conclusion for both players?

The better defender of the two is Debuchy for me. Maybe this is down to the fact that Bellerin always has been played in a more advanced role than Debuchy has done during the last years. Debuchy is the harder defender it seems with a lot of experience. Bellerin plays more on his technical skills when he defends. Trying more to intercept than to tackle. It is also clear to see that Debuchy can win aerial duels and that is of course why Debuchy can also play in the centre of the defence. Bellerin is  a player who cannot play there for the moment because his lack of physical presence in that position.

So in any Mourinho team Debuchy would play at right back. But this is Arsenal and as we need our full backs to join in the attack it looks to me that Bellerin has all the attributes it takes to become a great right back for many years to come. His attacking skills are much better than those of Debuchy.

Bellerin has been lucky with the injuries sustained by Debuchy. Wenger gave him his chance at the most difficult of places to go to in Dortmund. Bellerin had a difficult match, struggled but never lost his confidence in his own ability. And rightfully so. Because his potential is immense.

I said almost 2 years ago that in Bellerin we could have a defender like Danni Alves from Barcelona. Quick, small frame, technical ability and great going forward with sometimes some weaknesses when it comes to real defending. But at Arsenal we usually do the attacking and defending is only being done when we are forced to do it.

The big problem for Bellerin is to pick up on his defending. Whenever Debuchy is playing he should look and learn a few things because Debuchy clearly knows how to defend and how and when to make small fouls that doesn’t cost yellow cards. Bellerin has to watch how Debuchy uses his smaller body to outjump bigger opponents in the air. If he can add that to his already impressive skills over the next months and years he is going to be better than any right back we have ever had.

I trust Wenger to make him even better next season. I do admit I am wetting my pants just by thinking of Bellerin becoming a better defender than he already is and still adding to the attack like he did last season.

My prediction for next season…. A difficult one. When we are expected to struggle against a team and defending might be forced upon us I would go for Debuchy still… but when it comes to matches where Arsenal will dominate and go forward for 90 minutes my man would be Bellerin. Both players can be very valuable but it is clear to me that Bellerin will be the future for Arsenal at right back. If the future starts today will something that remains to be seen however. But needless to say that I am a big, big, big fan of Hector.


And elsewhere…

  • 15 June 1995: Bruce Rioch became Arsenal manager and simultaneously Stewart Houston resigned from his post as temporary manager.  Rioch lasted just one season and managed a European slot on the final day of the season, before being sacked.

24 Replies to “Arsenal’s season in review: right back”

  1. I’d like to know the comparative speed of both players. Bellarin is rated as the fastest player at Arsenal (even quicker than Theo ), but how do they rate on recovery speed?
    With Debuchy now at 29 (or 30 ) he’s going to slow down over this next couple of seasons and maybe Jenkinson will return to offer some competition.

  2. Interesting set of numbers Walter, thanks for writing this up.

    I am going to suggest your passing data is not good enough to suggest there is a difference in passing behavior between Debuchy and Bellerin. Debuchy attempted 369 passes with 0.797 accuracy (294 successful). We kind of expect the standard deviation on that to be about 17, so if we add 17 to 294 and divide by 369, we see 84.2%. If we add 17 to both 294 and 369, we see 80.6%. Bellerin’s number is 83.4. A 1 standard deviation in a measurement is not very unlikely, even a 2 standard deviation swing is actually quite likely.

    No data is given for number of passes in attacking half, I would guess something like 60 or 67% of the total passes are defensive, which would put Debuchy’s attacking pass attempt numbers probably around 100.

    And the same arguments apply to the shooting data, except the numbers are much smaller (and hence statistical noise has larger effect).

    I agree that Debuchy’s experience probably influences his superiority in aerial duels.

    There is an article at the BBC about a recent Estonian Cup game, where the final score was 36-0.

    That article references a BBC article on the record high score in a football match, of 149-0. Apparently most of the scoring in that game was a continuous succession of deliberate own goals as a means of protesting a referee decision. Gee, I didn’t know Mike Riley 😈 arranged games in Madagascar?

    According to Wikipedia

    The coach and 4 players were disciplined for this protest, while the referee that caused all the problem had no actions take against him. Which is further evidence of Mike Riley 😈 and his twisted behavior.

  3. I can’t agree more with your assessment of these RBs. Bellerin is attacking, Chambers is defensive and Debuchy is more balanced. On a long term based on the way Arsenal plays, Bellerin should be the best. Chambers had his education at RB so he can play CB better eventually. I have watched his game as CB before and he is impressive with Per or Kos. I see Debuchy as a utility player like in the mould of Lauren who also can play DM too. His aerial prowess and intelligence allows him to play CB as well. Who can forget the way he outjumped the towering Srktel and scored the goal against Liverpool. Now AW has variety of different type of players in each position to counter balance the opposition players without sacrificing the way the team plays. With no CL qualifying rounds and proper pre-season training, the team is ready to fight at all fronts next season. Of course, if the PGMOL does their job well.

  4. With good fortune on our side, we wouldn’t have injury crisis in our right back position next season. Save at the CB, it appears the Boss dosen’t want to keep more than 2 fullbacks in a season at the Gunners 2 fullback positions. While our 2 right backs played solidly well last season, our 2 left backs were suspects as they idividually led in goals that should have been blocked. Therefore, I am of the opinion the Boss should find a top quality 3rd LB to solidify our left back defending in summer. Maybe Gibbs will pardon me if I suggest the Boss should loan him out to a top Premier club to gain valuable experience like Jenko is currently undergoing. A Daniel Rose left back caliber-like defending should be an upgrade to the suspects Gunners left back defending. It has been said that Bellerin was a revelation at left back for Arsenal last season and it is true. Let’s hope he’ll improve in the areas of defending he was weak last season. Debuchy should come good from injury to start the games in summer.

  5. If Theo is moved into the middle by the manager, Bellerin could make the right wing his position. He has good attacking instincts & can also track back to help out whoever is playing RB.

  6. Walter,

    Thanks for this – very interesting. I note that Bellerin’s tackling stats are superior to Debuchy’s which is slightly inconsistent with the other stats.

    Would be interesting to also have Chambers stats (as a right back) to hand and also Jenkinson’s with West Ham…

  7. Pete, Debuchy played half the games of Bellerin, so if we double his numbers we get: 38/14 for Debuchy versus 31/8 for Bellerin. The square root of 31 is about 5.5, and the difference between 38 and 31 is about 5.5 as well, so on the basis of equal number of games, both players have statistically similar numbers for tackles won.

    Moving on to tackles lost, the square root of 8 is about 3. The difference between 8 and 14 is not about 3, it is closer to twice that. There is a fair chance that there is a statistically significant difference between tackles lost by Debuchy and Bellerin.

    If we add won and lost, we should have attempted, 52 for Debuchy and 39 for Bellerin (equal games basis). The square root of 39 is about 6, and the difference between 52 and 39 is again about twice as large as our estimated standard deviation, suggesting that Debuchy might be attempting a significantly larger number of tackles.

    It seems very likely that Bellerin is attempting interceptions much more often Debuchy, which works with the tackles attempted data. Bellerin is trying to intercept the ball in preference to having to attempt a tackle.

  8. Gord, you calculated what I had noticed 🙂
    Bellerin has a bit of Kos in him. Koscielny also likes to attack the ball before the striker and so does Bellerin when he gets the chance.

  9. Thanks Walter. I would think it is sort of self preservation, intercepting a ball is less likely to result in an elbow to the face or other such nonsense that Mike Riley’s 😈 employees allow to happen in a tackle.

  10. Debuchy also played a few time covering at CB didn’t he? So his numbers might be affected by the positioning.

  11. I find it difficult to differentiate between the two.
    Bellerin is more exciting when joining in the attack but as Walter points out, defending is his main task.
    In summing up his interesting post, Walter rightly reminds us that the Arsenal game policy under Arsene has always been to attack and only defend when forced to do so.
    For this reason the direction of our wingbacks is of paramount
    Debuchy and Bellerin in joint possession of the rb position will be a formidable pairing in the foreseeable future. 😉

  12. The awkward thing is that it’s 1st season for both of them but coming from different situations there is normally a different 2nd year.
    Most players with a new team (even when they come from another PL club) get better in the 2nd season. Yes Alexis was awesome and may be the exception to the rule but it doesn’t invalidate the rule. His 1st season has been screwed by his injuries but hopefully he’ll be even better next season.
    HB had an excellent season but will he suffer ‘2nd album’ syndrome? Lots (not all!) of young players that step up in their 1st year then have a weak 2nd year. Hopefully that won’t effect Hector.
    Next season will be very interesting at RB.
    As he did so well when called on this season, I expect MD to get some CB time as well (not as a starter but if a CB gets injured) so HB should get a reasonable amount of game time.

  13. Can only conclude that we truly are blessed in the right back department. One excellent and versatile defender, and one stellar attacking right back. Can use them both in different,situations, would,say the same for our LBs. happy days.

  14. In another comment, I looked at the distribution of goals scored per game, in the half way complete (sort of) Womens World Cup 2015.

    There I proposed that the game 10-0 and 10-1 were outlier scores, and that the 6-0 score might be as well. Today’s early games are not yet finished, but into the second half both games are 4 goal games (4-0 to Germany and 3-1 to Norway). There has been two 6 goal games (3-3 and 6-0), so it seems unlikely that a 6 goal game might be considered an outlier based on total goals in a game.

    I think that ESPN (worldwide leader in being ESPN) is going to have commentary of the Chile versus Mexico Copa America game. I expect Alexis Sanchez to start, but so far I don’t know. It is about 1.5 hours to kick off.

  15. Team rosters just popped up, Alexis Sanchez is indeed in the starting lineup.

    Go Chile!

    or according to Google Translate:

    Ir Chile!

  16. From Sports Mole coverage of Chile v Mexico

    > I can’t find a better way to say it. Sanchez is a pest. As brilliant as he is on the ball, he’s a manager’s dream when he is not in possession. Mexico’s defenders are being given a tough time by his pressing high up the pitch.

    Well, half time in Santiago, and the game is knotted at 2-2. Chile playing catchup, twice.

    Ir Chile!

    (Where is GGG, he knows Spanish?)

  17. Well, that game ends 3-3 (Chile v Mexico). Chile and Bolivia tied on 4 points, with Chile having a +1 goal difference advantage. Chile next plays Bolivia, Mexico plays the group whipping boys Ecuador. If Chile and Bolivia tie, and Mexico wins by more than 2, Mexico could be first (I think). Chile would go through on superior goal difference (I believe). Chile is not making this easy.

    As the WWC is on, and I am Canadian. Canada finally generated a goal from open play to start the game against Holland, but couldn’t hold on for the win. Canada leads the group, with China and Holland deadlocked (same points, same goal difference). Canada is also not making things easy.

  18. Journalism is no longer a profession!

    In sports, this has been suspected for a long time. But to see it verified in the “news” realm is unexpected.

    From TheRegister:

    > One of the article’s authors, Tom Harper, did little to help his paper’s case when, in an interview with CNN, he offered little in the way of evidence to back up his story. He told the world: “We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government.” Oh dear. ®

    I have no idea as to what the “Registered” applies to.

    But the story is political/national/security related, and we see plain as day that whorenalists will just publish what they THINK is the position of the government. No verification required.

    We have a moderately important news organization, admitting that they do not investigate seriously any more, and they will publish what they believe is the government’s opinion on a topic of national security.

    The world’s news organizations have been looking for a reason to be relevent for a long time. The pursuit of advertising clicks at the expense of professionalism has killed the news industry. Journalism is NOT a profession, and is not to be trusted (a priori).

    An upcoming story about a disaster or serious crime? You better believe the sales guys have been pounding the streets looking to find the best advertisors to have their product exposed to you on either side of that “story”. Which may not even be true.

    Proof? For months now, we have been reading BS about Cech and Arsenal. Because Cortouis is too good, and Cech can’t get back into the starting X1. Today I seen an article that Courtouis is looking to come to Arsenal, because he can’t get into the starting X1.

    Just make up stories, sheeple will read them, and you will get click thru revenue. That’s all that counts.

    Take your 5 billion pound contract and shove it up ALL the asshole medja dorks you have hired. And I hope they all die of malnutrition inside of the next 2 years.

  19. I have to agree that we are indeed blessed with enough classy players in the right back position and do hope that we keep them all happy with enough game time or loan spells .
    As some of them are also versatile to cover other positions this should be utilised for the cup games too.

  20. I think Chambers is seen by AW as a possible replacement for one of our mid defence pair and Gabriel the other?

    “We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government.”
    Doubt that very much, amend that to “what the editor is allowed to allow us to publish” 🙂 .

    Football life is sooooo boring without Arsenal playing.

  21. @Gord Ir is the infinitive form of the verb (to go) It needs to be conjugated and people normally say Vamos or Let’s Go… or sometimes Adelante which means Forward! or Go Ahead! This varies from city to city and country. So for your example…Vamos Chile!! or Adelante Chile!!

  22. Easy.

    If you want to defend select Debuchy.

    If you want to attack select Bellerin

    I am sure Arsene knows exactly what to do without any advice.

  23. I consider the right back to be one of the positions Arsenal have quality investments and potential. Debuchy, Bellerin, Chambers, Jenks, even Flamini can play there too. Yet some still want to buy err…’world class’

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