One week ago it came to light Arsenal were determined to activate the £4million buy-back clause over Carlos Vela. Some embraced the news with the scepticism that bringing back a four-time loaned player naturally can produce, while others saw the move as the right decision taken by the Premier League club, as the player finally looks to of matured into just the type of player they need. What not many could see coming was the Mexican turning around and saying ‘no, thanks’.
The fact that Vela has publicly declined Arsenal’s interest in him without even discussing what kind of future was awaiting him at The Emirates should, at least, make the Gunners’ chiefs stop for a minute and think. Is the 24-year-old really having a brilliant spell at Real Sociedad? The answer is an obvious yes, but, is it better than the prospects of a return to Arsenal can bring? If that is the case, Vela’s intentions to stay in San Sebastian should cause alarm in the north London club.
First of all, we should discard the possibility of Arsenal not being the right club for Vela. As a young, quick and skilful winger, it is hard to think of a better place for him to be than by Arsene Wenger’s side. His style of play matches to perfection what the Frenchman has tried to display on the pitch in the last few years, so it seems daring to explain the youngster’s failure at his first stage at Arsenal due to tactical reasons. He was simply too young and needed a bit more experience before being ready to impress at the top level.
His game has matured now and with 12 goals and 10 assists so far this season, Vela is one of the main assets of this superb Real Sociedad side, clearly the 2012/13 La Liga’s surprise package. Manager Philippe Montanier has formed a superb team based on a solid defence and the talent and experience of Xabi Prieto in the midfield that finds the spark in both wings with the skills of Vela and Griezmann. At this stage of the season they lie fourth in the table and dreams of the Champions League are starting to form in San Sebastian.
With the European hopes flying over Anoeta, one would think Vela has let himself go with the flow and expects more glory days to come with Real Sociedad, unaware of the humble nature of the team he plies his trade for. Far from that, the Mexican is perfectly conscious of the moment his current squad lives in and, as much faith he has in his team mates, he remains with the idea of staying with the Spaniards even if they fail to squeeze into Europe.
“I’m very happy here and, if we can’t make it into Europe this year, I’d like to stay to try the next one,” he said earlier this week.
That kind of statement comes to prove the presence, or lack of, that Arsenal have as a European power in football nowadays. The Gunners might not be seen any longer as a step up to the top level. Even though Wenger has kept qualifying for the Champions League season on season, Arsenal have struggled to look competitive in the European arena, and that could be having devastating side effects on the willingness players show to join the club.
We could add other reasons for Vela to snub Arsenal’s intentions of bringing him back, such as the competition for a place in the start XI. But if someone knocks on your door and offers you the possibility to lift trophies, you don’t think about that. The problem is that all Arsenal offer now is a short spell in Europe and a fight for the top-four in the league. What for? For another short spell in Europe the year after.
Looking at it that way, it seems more reasonable that players think twice before taking up the call to join the Gunners. After all, Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal might be asking themselves why they left a team that is among the best eight in Europe, to take up that call.