The Short Corner: Time to give Vela a chance on the right

AFCB’s tactics guru Andrew Enloe looks at how we coped without Walcott and van Persie and presents his case for Carlos Vela to play on the right…

We could be forgiven for being optimistic after seeing Robin Van Persie superbly play in Theo Walcott during Arsenal’s match against Blackburn two weeks ago.  They are two players who, when fit and on form, cause massive problems for opposition defenders.  They allow Arsenal to aggressively press in midfield and they create space for other players.

Naturally they would both be injured early on in the season after looking quite good initially.  So the main question going into the match against Bolton was, “How will we cope?” A match against Bolton would show just that.

Though Bolton have a reputation as Arsenal’s ‘bogey team,’ it’s difficult to understand why.  It is true that Bolton were a formidable force under Sam Allardyce but he has moved onto Blackburn where he is creating a team in the same mould.  The current incarnation of Bolton Wanderers is a team in transition and Arsenal have a truly excellent record against them.  Owen Coyle has signed some fine ball-playing midfielders like Stuart Holden and Martin Petrov and has given our Jack Wilshere some valuable Premier League experience.  Even though they still retain a few thugs there is a marked difference between Coyle’s team and the Bolton of old.

Arsenal started with a back four which had never played together; Eboue, Koscielny, Squillaci and Gibbs.  I thought they passed their test.  Wenger often played Eboue in home games last season and I thought the threat of his attacks kept Martin Petrov from committing too much forward.

To be honest the boys looked like they’d never played together on Bolton’s goal.  I’ve been impressed with Koscielny this season.  He was superb against Blackburn.  But he has made two mistakes this season as far as I can tell and both have resulted in goals.  For this one it looked like Koscielny was caught between heading back to Almunia and heading it to Squillaci, who had initially challenged Kevin Davies in the air and lost.  Against a player like Kevin Davies you always need to be ready for the second ball because he will win his fair share of headers.  It didn’t look like Koscielny was ready.  It will take him some time to get used to the pace and physicality of the Premier League but I’ve seen enough to convince me that he can iron out those mistakes.

In midfield Wenger chose to rest Diaby (after two tough games for France) and play a midfield of Song, Wilshere, and Cesc.  In front of them were Rosicky, Arshavin, and Chamakh as a traditional No. 9.  Cesc was truly excellent with his long passes and deft chips.  Bolton made the same mistake Blackpool did with a suicidal high defensive line and Cesc and Rosicky played passes behind them all day.

As mentioned before, a lot of focus was going to be put on how the forwards played in the absence of Van Persie and Walcott.  Van Persie’s replacement, Chamakh, is relatively straightforward.  He is a far more classic striker than Van Persie, who likes to drop deep and spread the play.  Chamakh’s role further forward has given other players, such as Diaby, an opportunity to exploit the space between the midfield and strikers.

Though Rosicky is always dangerous, I would like to see Carlos Vela given a chance out on the right.  The problem with him out on the left is that he is completely and totally left-footed, so when he cuts in the angle for a shot is completely cut off.  Look at the superb juggling run he improvised against Blackpool, followed by a horrible attempt at a right-footed finish.  But look at how easy his goal against Bolton was.  It was an obvious far-post finish, and he duly obliged.

Andrey Arshavin should have had a few goals in this game, but it’s worth noting that he frequently puts chances like those away.  When he cuts in from the left he is always poised to shoot to the far post with his stronger right foot.  I believe the same should be tried with Carlos Vela.

I will admit that I really want to see Carlos Vela succeed at Arsenal.  I’m from the United States and have seen him tear apart American full-backs.  It’s frustrating to see him utterly dissect your national team’s back line and then fail to take his chances for that other team you support.  But I feel that in Walcott’s stead, Vela could be a potent weapon cutting in from the right.  Seeing the way Arshavin was poised to score when played through by Cesc and Rosicky, I just can’t help but feel that Vela should be given a chance to do the same.

Short Corners

  • Koscielny and Squillaci misplaced one pass between the two of them the whole match, Squillaci with a 100% record.  Koscielny also made an excellent 9 interceptions throughout the match.

  • One of the reason Vela’s goal was so special was the patience from the midfield.  Cesc’s chip over the Bolton back line was the first time in the 20-something-pass move that the ball had gotten into the final third.
  • For all Coyle’s talk of playing the ball on the ground, it’s telling that Bolton’s goal came from a long ball to Kevin Davies.  To be fair, it would be stupid not to use him.


Have your say on this week’s ‘The Short Corner” by leaving a comment.



  1. You admit he is totally left footed, so it is amazing that you think he could be a success at right wing. Every defender would only have to stop him cutting on to his left foot and we would be playing with ten men for most of the time. Yes the advantage he would give us when getting in on goal on his left foot sounds good but as all defenders would know that is his one and only trick or option they would easily stop him. It only works well to have a wide player on wrong side to cut in on strong foot if his weak foot is good enough to pick passes, put in good crosses and score with too, that is why overmars and pires were so good on the left and arshavin causes such problems too. With vela we would have the sight of him having to turn round and pass back everytime a defender ushers him down the line, fans would soon get fed up of that.

  2. I totally agree that Vela should be given a chance. As with Mexico he can play anywhere along the frontline. He finishing is getting better and better by the day and his off the ball running is spot on.
    He plays a lot like David Silva who is also very much left footed by roams around just behind the main striker. With the interchangeability between our front players, the opposing defense who now know how to mark the players.

  3. I would like Vela to be given a chance too. Does he deserve it though? I think so.

    Regarding other tactical stuff from the weekend, I actually thought we played with a slightly different formation than usual. Rosicky seemed to be playing a lot more central than a typical wide player and it was almost as if we were using Germany’s 4-2-3-1 from the World Cup, with Wilshere alongside Song and Arshavin, Cesc and Rosicky all interchanging behind Chamakh. It was a great system and I think quite different to the way we played with Walcott in the side.

    Great article again Andrew, you’re a gem.

  4. i do not agree with eduardo because most defender if not all find it difficult to stop arjen robben and we all he is a left footed player so vela too can be as dangerous as robben is.

  5. He definitely deserves a chance. I’m fed up with people fobbing him off despite the fact he has never had two starts in a row. It’s ridiculous. He has obvious talent and for such a young player, he has great experience (world cup, prem league, la liga, etc)

    I think he could play on the right wing, but why not alternate with Arshavin throughout the game, depending on success? Arshavin is both footed so can surely play on the right.

  6. I think his right foot is better than you seem to think, it looks like he’s been working on it and had a few good shots off it in pre-season, ofc nowhere near his left-footed prowess but with a little more confidence he could finish effectively with both feet imo.

    Playing him on the right would also give us less width, something we already struggle with at times, and having two inverse wingers might result in a bit of an imbalance which would probably do more harm than good, I do rate Vela though and hope he gets more chances to show what he can do, just not so sure him plaing on the right is a grat idea.

  7. @ Eduardo – Inverted wingers are a big part of the game these days. Robben, Messi, and Arshavin are at their most effective when they cut in onto their stronger feet. And surely you haven’t forgotten already how good Henry and Pires were on the left, despite being mostly right-footed. Cutting onto a fullback’s weaker foot is also a huge advantage, as it forces the entire back line out of position.

    And I would also say that traditional wingers are a decent option with Chamakh in the team, though they and the fullbacks will have to improve on their crossing. Having a player in the center who looks to put a head on the ball is slightly foreign for Arsenal, but it seems to be working out nicely.

  8. I think vela is a good player but i don’t think he will make it in the prem as a front man he is too small he is a good ground finisher by the way and i dear say the best one at the club at the moment but you must be an allround finisher to be a success and his size will deny him this

  9. @ kel – do you think Walcott will make it as a front man?

    I don’t see height as being a major issue. Perhaps it could be an issue for our current formation; to play him on his own would lead to a similar result as playing Arshavin on his own last season. But to rule him out as a front man completely seems premature. Wrighty wasn’t exactly tall. Del Piero, Larsson, Tevez, Defoe, Owen, Bojan Krkic, Fowler, Rossi, Villa, Messi, Maradona, etc could all play as forwards despite the fact that they weren’t tall. Wikipedia has Vela at over 5’10 – taller than all of those players. Although having met him I think they are wrong, but only by an inch or so.

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