Carlos Vela’s Arsenal spell and the implications
Carlos Vela was somehow both one of the most likable but most frustrating players to watch during his stint at the club. Unfortunately, he failed to really live up to the heights of his time at Osasuna. Not all of it was his fault however.
It certainly didn’t help Vela that Arsenal’s system changed about the time he was ready to make his breakthrough. As a player who would usually be sitting in behind the striker or even drifting out onto the wing, this new single striker formation the club were using put him in a bad position.
Even in the early days of the lone striker formation at Arsenal it was more a role for a hold up man than a poacher like Vela. Now lacking the height and physicality to play in this position, Vela was moved out to the left flank which only seemed to isolate him more. He managed to impress against lesser opposition in throwaway Premier League matches and the Carling Cup. But his inability to step up to big games, or make much of an impact off the bench, made his task of breaking into the first team very difficult. Following that it was no surprise that he was loaned out to West Brom and then Sociedad the following season.
We’ve seen how so many South American players, Brazilians mostly and, in this case, a Mexican player have failed to really make an impact in the Premier League. It may be a bit of generalization but these leagues focus all too much on technical, attractive football with very little of it being on physicality or just defence in general. There’s far more time on the ball and that’s why players like Ganso have thrived in the Brasileirão while struggling in bigger competitions like the Copa America just a year ago.
It’s a very admirable outlook and makes for some very entertaining football but this puts their players at a huge disadvantage when they do get the chance to move to Europe’s big leagues, primarily the Premier League. It takes the highest of talents to adjust quickly to the different pace and philosophies of the game in England.
Vela’s time in La Liga in the last year has provided us with some of his best performances. After racking up the best goals and assists tally at Sociedad, it’s clear why he wanted to stay at the club. As a result, it would be easy to think that he was playing in, what I would think, was his best suited position behind the striker. But he was actually played in similar roles as he did in London.
So maybe it’s an attitude problem. Again, this is very much a generalization but for the most part players from this part of the world have somewhat lacked the same work ethic as their European counterparts. There’s definitely been stand out exceptions, i.e. Gilberto and Edu being the first to come to mind, both of whom showed a high level of physicality and mental toughness.
Then you look at a player like Wellington Silva who attracted a lot of attention at just the age of 16. After being signed by Arsenal months later, he had to stay at Fluminense until he turned professional. In that time, you would’ve expected a sensible player to have taken the initiative to learn English in the build up to the move but nothing of the sort happened.
Wellington had, at one point, been one of the brightest talents in the world and still could be. The fact that he’s out on loan, much like Vela was, to obtain a work permit through Spanish citizenship definitely doesn’t help. This time could have been better used in instilling a certain level of discipline in the youngster, one which seemed to go missing in Vela. So can a player like him actually succeed at the club? It’s difficult to say but the way Vela’s career with Arsenal went it just seems unlikely.