Arsenal striker Carlos Vela will play for Arsenal next season according to his agent Eduardo Hernandez. It comes as a surprise to me as I expected Vela to be included in the cull by manager Arsene Wenger in a bid to freshen up his squad having gone trophy-less for six seasons.
A product of Guadalajara youth set-up, Vela already is an experienced senior Mexican International with 35 caps to his name at the tender age of 22. For one reason or another, he hasn't translated his success on the International stage to the broader level of club football.
One of the reasons might be his early exit from Guadalajara before establishing himself in the Mexican domestic league. Since joining Arsenal in 2005, he has plied his trade mostly in Spain with loan spells at Salamanca and Osasuna.
However, at Arsenal he has failed to nail down a regular place in the starting 11 so far. Talent has never been in doubt, but his application and temperament are questionable. He looks like a player who's only good enough to conjure magic in cameo appearances.
The diminutive Mexican is a clinical finisher, but whenever he was given a starting role, he has failed to deliver.
The second half of last season saw him playing at West Bromwich Albion on a loan spell. Wenger sent him out on loan in the hope that such a move to a Premiership side would help him gain valuable experience and regular playing time.
But the arrival of Roy Hodgson as the manager of West Brom dented Wenger's hopes and Vela was restricted to substitute appearances. So, it was only expected of Wenger to flog the Mexican this summer after another failed loan spell.
Had he parted ways with the talented yet inconsistent striker, it wouldn't have raised too many eyebrows.
However, it seems like no club is willing to match Arsenal's valuation for Vela, and hence the Mexican will remain on the bench for another season. Wenger has also denied permission for Vela to feature in the CONCACAF cup which means that the Frenchman is preparing to give the Mexican striker a chance to impress in the pre-season, which might very well be his last chance.
If he does impress, which is a big if, Vela could find himself in the thick of action next season. However, with many new arrivals expected in the next few weeks, especially the imminent one of Gervinho from Lille, Vela's future looks bleak.
But there's still hope. Being overly optimistic, Vela might get a chance on the left flank next season, what with Andrey Arshavin slowly but steadily fading away.
That said, Vela is by no means a winger. He's more suited to the traditional 4-4-2 formation as the striker to complement the taller centre forward. His finishing abilities will come in handy in a two-striker formation. It must be said that Wenger's decision to keep Vela does suggest that Wenger is pondering over the formation for next season. In the last two seasons, Wenger embraced the lone-striker formation to challenge the continental sides as well to play to his strength, which is midfield. But it hasn't been a success with too many similar type of midfielders being predictable allowing opponents to easily cut out Arsenal's threat in the final third.
As a result, Wenger might be contemplating a change in his approach, both tactically and strategically for the upcoming season, which to me is a break or make season for Monsieur Wenger.
As for Vela, I can't see him pinning down a regular place next season. Unless Arsenal change their formation, Vela will struggle to get a start. He's not suited to the lone-striker formations and playing on the flanks is not his cup of tea as it would significantly diminish his threat which is his supreme finishing abilities.
Playing on the wings, he would be asked to create more and link up with the attack as well as to track back and help in defending. Those are not the attributes one would associate with Vela. Of course, Vela will add depth to the attack and in case an injury crisis hits, Arsenal would be better equipped to endure it with Vela in the squad. More than that I can't see Vela making too much of an impact next season and his playing time could be limited to the cup games.