WTTGT Writer: James Guy
Since his impressive debut hat-trick against Sheffield United in September 2008, Carlos Vela has been something of an enigma at Arsenal. The fans have seen glimpses of Vela’s skills in the five years he has been a part of the club; undoubtedly he possesses the necessary credentials to make him a star however, they have also seen his incapability of transferring these skills from pure talent into consistent performances. The dilemma lies here, what is holding Vela back? Is he just unable to transfer his promise into a finished article, or, is there something deeper which cannot allow him to progress as a player?
Vela’s stuttering Arsenal career bares a stark contrast to that of fellow countryman, Javier Hernandez, who signed for Manchester United last summer. The two have had very different careers despite having both come from Chivas’ academy in Mexico. Hernandez grew up in Guadalajara and joined their youth team when he was nine years old, spending another nine years there before being promoted to the first-team where he notched up 80 appearances and 29 goals.
Vela’s journey differs; he left the youth-team a year before Hernandez and a year younger on the back of his golden boot winning display in the U17 World Cup. Due to Visa problems, Vela went to Spain where he scored eleven goals in two seasons. He then came back to Arsenal but has seen less regular football than expected. Why hasn’t Hernandez’s success been replicated by Vela?
The key may be down to the consistency of Vela’s footballing development. Hernandez’s development contrasts as it has been a patient and consistent one within the same club. He was only bought by Manchester United when he was physically and mentally ready to perform at that level. Whereas Vela has moved around and played in four teams in four seasons; as well as having the pressure of signing for one of the biggest teams in the toughest league in the world.
In order to stay in the manager’s plans, he needed to perform well for both Salamanca and Osasuna despite not having that much time to settle into either. Vela had to do this from the age of 18 whereas Hernandez has only got to this stage in his career now at the age of 23, 5 years later than Vela.
Other than his early emergence onto the scene, Vela’s problems may come from too much international football, having played 35 games since 2007 for Mexico. This is similar to Giovanni dos Santos who is just as established in the Mexico team having played 41 times since 2007 and similarly now enduring a faltering club career. Both posses the ability to play good football and this is why they have been regulars for the national team, but maybe their success in playing for big clubs came too early for them to handle.
Hernandez has only played 25 times for Mexico since 2009 despite being a year older than the other 2 players. This again shows how patient development has paid off for him as he is able to balance the demands of club and country. He is at a time in his career where he can shoulder the burden of both, and this has lead to him flourishing in the league this season.
Vela’s inconsistent development could have had a psychological effect on his game. He doesn’t seem mature enough to be able to carry this on and there is a problem in how hard he trains. He’s been rarely put on the bench in recent seasons and his subsequent loan was obviously the only way Wenger could see him playing any football during the rest of the season.
Last season in our crucial Champions League away leg to Barcelona, Vela forgot his passport and was unable to travel. As well as this he was pictured with vice girls that he and Salcido of Fulham had hired for a party. These both seem actions of an unsettled and unhappy person who is not mentally fit enough to deal with the pressures of the relenting world of football.
The number of international games far away from London obviously takes a toll on him. It is encouraging that Wenger has stopped him from playing for Mexico this summer; meaning that he must be in his plans for next season.
It remains to be seen if he’ll make it or Arsenal.