As far as footballing clichés go, the ‘grass being greener on the other side’ applies to Carlos Vela’s switch from Arsenal to Real Sociedad quite well. In fact, the grass couldn’t have been greener for Vela.
Real Sociedad, as of writing this, are sitting sixth in La Liga and are only five points from fourth place. The Basque club face their rivals, Athletic Bilbao, on Friday 22nd of February; should they win, they’ll shoot up to fifth place, albeit until Saturday. Carlos Vela mixes in perfectly with a side that has the youngest average aged squad in La Liga. A squad where young talent paired with a fairly young manager, Philippe Montanier (48), have reached dizzy heights in La Liga. If you take away the 4-3 loss to Real Madrid in January, Real Sociedad are unbeaten since the 10th of November 2012. A fantastic unbeaten run in the league has been further glossed by their heroics against Barcelona; the Basque club found themselves two goals down against Barcelona, only to turn it around and win the game 3-2.
Enough about Real Sociedad as a whole. Let’s talk about their star Mexican, Carlos Vela. In 23 league appearances this season, including two substitute cameos, Vela has found the back of the net ten times; more than any other Real Sociedad player. Not only that, the former Arsenal man has also amassed five assists in La Liga, meaning he also tops their assists chart. Sociedad manager, Phillipe Montanier, labelled Carlos Vela as one of their most valuable assets on the pitch.
Carlos Vela’s been used all over the park by Montanier. He’s had to play wide-right, wide-left, behind the striker, as an inside-forward from the left and as the sole striker. His main contributions, and starts, have been in a wide-right position; he’s mustered four goals and three assists, in nine appearances, on the right. Once the wild striker which Arsenal fans knew for his sublimely chipped finishes, Vela is now more composed inside the box and an increasingly better finisher. Along with Xabi Prieto and Asier Illarramendi, Carlos Vela has one of the most vital components for Sociedad’s success this season.
And, it isn’t just a case of ‘second season syndrome’ for Vela. Last season, when he first joined Sociedad on loan, he shone. The fans warmed to him, and so did the club. So much so that they signed him permanently in the Summer.
It’s never been a hidden fact that Arsene Wenger regards the 23-year-old Mexican forward very highly. He didn’t get a run of games at Arsenal, and never really shone on loan at West Brom. When Vela said he wanted first-team action, there was, ultimately, nothing Wenger could do about that. In terms of it being a case of ‘the one who got away’, Carlos Vela has recently come out and said “I know there have been Arsenal scouts watching me. There’s a buy-back clause in my contract”. Although it hasn’t been verified if those words actually came out of his mouth, it seems like something Wenger would’ve done. And, at only a reported £4M, it’ll be interesting to see if Wenger wants to bring Vela back to the Emirates.
Many will say “He wasn’t good enough at first, why should he be now?”. To that, I say, he’s come on leaps and bounds since moving to Spain. He’s been getting regular first-team football and has been one of the star performers for one of the in form teams in Spain. Personally, I can’t see Carlos Vela returning to Arsenal. Yes, he’d be a very good squad player/utility man, but he’s not what we desperately need in the Summer; we need a world class centre-forward. Ultimately, if Vela was open to a move back to Arsenal, it’d be hard to say no. He’s equally adept to playing on either flank, and can play up-front. Off-loading Park, Chamakh and Bendtner and replacing the three with someone like Carlos Vela would be a good move, not only for the club in terms of player quality, but it’d also free up the wage bill. And free up some squad spaces. Again, why would he want to join a club that can only offer him a limited amount of minutes as a squad player? It’d be a dubious career move from such a bright player, but one some Arsenal fans, including myself, would be open to.
– GB1886: Thanks for reading yet another combination of La Liga & Arsenal. I’ve quite enjoyed these, but I believe there’s not much else I can cover on the two for quite some time.