Should Arsenal play Vela as a winger or striker if he returns?

Carlos Vela

Real Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay has revealed Arsenal are planning to bring former forward protégé Carlos Vela back to the Emirates but where should he play in the team?

“Arsenal have informed us that Vela would be with them next season,” stated the president of the Spanish outfit with whom the Mexican striker scored an impressive 21 goals and made 13 assists in all competitions last term.

The Gunners can reportedly bring the player back to North London for £3.5 million due to a clause in the deal that saw him sign for Real Sociedad on a permanent deal in 2012 after a successful loan spell in La Liga in 2011/12.

Since signing that deal Vela has scored close to a goal every game – at Arsenal he scored just 11 goals and made six assists in 62 appearances for the Gunners across his six years on the club’s books.

Clearly he has discovered his shooting boots over in Spain but where would he best deployed at Arsenal? Across his 16 goals scored in La Liga this term, 12 of them were scored when he played on the right wing for Real Sociedad which is obviously where they felt he was most effective but, interesting, in the six games he played as a centre forward, he sored only in one of those outings, but on that occasion he scored four goals in 90 minutes against Celta Vigo.

Only two of his 13 assists in the league have come when he was deployed as a striker in La Liga, which is no strange thing but quite evidentially, he is more comfortable and effective on the flank in terms of his scoring and creation of goals for the team.

He is also not particularly well suited physically to playing as a loan centre forward in the Premier League at 5ft10”, even Olivier Giroud struggles at times against centre backs and he’s 6ft4”. We have seen Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski played centrally this season and last season by Arsene Wenger but the result and performances were, at best, unconvincing.

Vela is ideally suited to play on the flank but at present, when everyone is fit and available, Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Serge Gnabry and Mesut Ozil can all function in Vela’s preferred position. It is indeed fair to say that all of those players, especially the first two, have their struggles with injuries and another man coming in would be no bad thing but Vela would have to compete for his place and we have seen him struggle to do that before at Arsenal.

At Real Sociedad he is a key player with a lot of responsibility and access to the first team but I wonder whether that would be the case for Arsenal. Meanwhile, the Gunners are still lacking options up front – the only likely scenario I can imagine in Wenger bringing Vela back is to convert him into a striker, perhaps in that kind of Eduardo role of yesteryear.

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