Carlos Vela Scores His First Goal for West Brom
The on-loan striker makes a lasting impression for both of his clubs.
Carlos Vela scored his first goal for West Brom in stoppage time to mark a dramatic 1—1 finish to the first Barclays Premier League Black Country derby on the 157th occasion.
Arguably considered the best derby on the planet, there is no better way to endear yourself to a new club and new manager than in the midst of a relegation battle with a local rival. This is the kind of contribution that Vela has lacked in his time at Arsenal. Most of his Arsenal goals have come as a late substitute once the match has been decided.
What could be equally valuable for the tender striker was the confidence in his play leading up to the goal. There is no question that Vela is a technically gifted player with pace and an incredible left foot. Unfortunately, for all the skill and talent, there are indications that he is somewhat of an airhead. He missed last year’s Champions league away game at Barcelona because he lost his passport. It’s hard to say whether or not he misplaced it just before leaving town or had no idea where it was and waited until the last minute to search for it. Either way, Vela had learned his lesson. Before the World Cup, he revealed that he now took his passport to bed with him.
For every time he chips the goalkeeper, there is a missed opportunity requiring less expertise. At times he thinks too slowly or refuses to use his right foot. For stretches of a game he will be peripheral, as if the game itself was an unknown language, but then without notice he will do something incisive and exquisite.
There is something precious in his play, the gears must be perfectly aligned and greased for him to function at his best. He seems to be reluctant to amend himself to the circumstances of an opportunity, instead trying to change the terms to meet his preferences. If this isn’t attributable to the type of player he is, then it could be the overbearing influence of a precious Arsenal attack.
Five minutes in his substitution and with West Brom pressing, Vela, lined up wide left, received a cross field pass. He brought the ball to his feet while cutting inside to his right and took a hard shot with his right foot from the edge of the penalty box. When did Vela ever do this with Arsenal? In the identical situation, he would have looked for a pass before considering the shot.
His equalizer off the goalkeeper's rebound was a further refutation of the criticism. His reaction was quick and he adjusted to the circumstances by taking it first time with his right foot. Throughout his cameo, he looked a different player.
Brought in by the offensive-minded Roberto Di Mateo who was soon replaced by a more cautious Roy Hodgson, it is difficult to see how much playing time he will receive over these six months. But valuable experience can be accumulated from brief moments just as it can through extended immersion and repetition. The confidence and desire to impress himself on a game is something he can take back to Arsenal and share with his colleagues.