The 25-year-old Mexican failed to cement his place in the first-team under Arsene Wenger but has begun to realize his potential in Spain where he scored 21 goals and made 14 assists across all competitions for Real Sociedad this term.
Meanwhile, his teammate at the Anoeta, France international Antoine Griezmann has been the standout performer this term with his tally of 20 goals and five assists in all competitions. But which of the two wingers would be the better fit for the Gunners this summer?
Whilst some would say ‘better the devil you know’, Vela was not the most popular player during his time at the Emirates but it is indeed plausible, and perhaps likely, that the forward has matured with age whilst away in Spain.
23-year-old Griezmann is undoubtedly one of La Liga’s rising stars and his inclusion in the France squad for the World Cup in Brazil this summer, ahead of the likes of Samir Nasri, show just the level of faith there is invested in the youngster at both club and country.
Arsene Wenger has been, over the years, one of the best cultivators of French talent and a signing such as Griezmann would fit his model ideally. Griezmann is a technically exceptional player with an eye for goal and an ability to run at defenders, create space for others, and attack with real tenacity. His stock is high at present with a number of elite clubs in Europe chasing his signature and, as such, it would likely take a bid over of well over £20 million to even get Real Sociedad to respond for the player whose contract runs until 2016.
Vela, meanwhile, could be bought back for a fraction of that cost, given Arsenal’s original deal with the Spanish side that included a reported £3.3 million buyback clause.
Statistically, the difference between the two players doesn’t necessarily justify the huge gulf in their potential transfer values. Vela has scored more goals and made more assists, has a marginally higher pass completion rate of 78.7% to Griezmann’s 77.2%, as well as making double the number of key passes per game (Vela makes 2.1 on average to Griezmann’s 1), completes more dribbles successfully (2 per game on average to the Frenchman’s 0.7) but has a lower shot accuracy of 54% to Griezmann’s 60% across the season in La Liga.
It’s a conundrum because, in years gone by, Arsenal have had to restrict their spending but that is not the case this summer and they can afford to go and spend £25 million on one of the continent’s most sought-after young stars who will undoubtedly improve over the course of his potential contract.
However, it is still interesting to see how the Vela situation will play out as he has improved immensely in all areas at Real Sociedad to become a very dangerous player with experience of Spain, England and international football. If I had to pick one, I think I’d go for Griezmann as I think with time, if he realizes his potential the way Vela has started to, he will be the better player for the future and would be ideally suited to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger’s setup.