To see their progress in the newly-formed Uefa Youth League, you would not think Arsenal’s ebullient young stars had experienced leaner times.
Two games played, eight goals scored and just the two conceded: the future looks bright, perched on top of Group F.
It seems incongruous to think that just a few short months ago a disappointing pre-season campaign - which included heavy defeats at Luton Town and Colchester - had caused alarm bells to ring. How on earth would they fare when pitted against the cream of Europe?
Steve Gatting had calmly preached patience, and his faith in his multi-talented squad has been rewarded with a series of fine displays - both in the domestic game and on the continent.
Perhaps the pick have been reserved for the Youth League, where a coruscating 4-1 dismissal of Marseille was followed by an equally impressive dismantling of Napoli by the same scoreline. Confidence levels are soaring and the exciting right back Hector Bellerin cannot wait for their next challenge: against Dortmund at Meadow Park on Wednesday night.
“We have very good players from different age groups coming together and we are gelling really well as a team,” he told Arsenal.com.
“After a tough pre-season when we had some difficult results, we realised we needed to work hard and learn from those experiences.
“We know the way we want to play, we've got really good players and when we play to our potential other teams really struggle to handle us. I think if we keep up these performances we can go very far in this competition.
"We know the way we want to play, we've got really good players and when we play to our potential other teams really struggle to handle us"
“Our passing game has been very good in both [Youth League] games and we know teams will get tired before we do. We know we are physically strong.
“This season we have got four conditioning coaches and they’ve really helped us, both individually and as a team. Our fitness has been so much better and that allows us to be strong in the latter stages of games. We have scored a few goals late on, which shows we are physically strong."
Bellerin and his team-mates take on a Dortmund side on Wednesday who recovered well from an opening-day defeat to Napoli to thrash Marseille 5-2 last time out. But the Spain Under-19 international is confident the understanding the Gunners’ backline has quickly formed will hold firm.
“We’re very young defenders but we communicate well and always try to keep clean sheets,” said Bellerin. “It's been very good because we try to play out from the back and I think we need keep going the way we are.
“We haven't really been able to watch much of Dortmund yet. We know they won the second game 5-2, so you can tell they’re a good team.
“We know from our coaches that they are a team who play in a pretty similar way to us. They try to move the ball quickly so I think it's going to be a good match-up and a really good game.”
On a personal level, it’s been an encouraging start to the season for Bellerin, too. The flying right back has made big strides for the Club’s under-19 and under-21 teams and was rewarded with a call-up for the Capital One Cup match at West Brom last month. He had to make do with a place on the bench, but his patience was finally rewarded when he was sent on as a 95th-minute substitute and played his part as the Gunners secured a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory.
“I had two chances last year which I couldn't take and this year I was warming up for virtually the whole game and couldn't see the opportunity coming,” he said. “But then Mikel Arteta got injured and the feeling [of coming on] was amazing.
"All the years you do just training and training… to finally play for the first team was a dream come true"
“All the years you do just training and training… to finally play for the first team was a dream come true. It was great to win on penalties, I couldn't have asked for more. I played in a position that I wasn't used to but the boss gave me a lot of confidence and overall I'm really happy to have made my first-team debut. I hope there will be many more games to come.
“Every player needs to try to improve until they get into the first team. I'm more of an attacking player, playing as a full back, so I always need to improve my defensive game and be very aware of my duties at the back.
"The coaches show us videos of how we defend and tell us what we need to do better. I need to keep learning day by day and I think competitions like the Youth League are really helping us to do that.”
- Arsenal's Youth League game against Borussia Dortmund kicks off at 7pm at Meadow Park, Borehamwood and entrance is completely free! We will also have live tweets from the game on the @ArsenalLive account from 6.55pm
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