El Centrocampista

The Arsenal striker more important to his side than RVP

While Arsenal may have failed to bring silverware to the Emirates Stadium for another year, this season has brought some major highlights for Arsene Wenger; not least the fantastic goalscoring form of talimanic striker, Robin van Persie.

The Dutch international has been the undoubted star of the show for Wenger’s side this campaign and his haul of 36 goals in all competitions for the Gunners was quite rightly rewarded with the PFA Player of the Year award.

Van Persie’s goals have fired Arsenal to the brink of Uefa Champions League qualification; a win at West Brom on the final day of the season will guarantee a place in the continents top club competition next season, and his form has already produced countless rumours of impending mega-money transfer bids from around Europe.

There has been another Arsenal player however, who’s goals have been arguably even more important to his club than RVP’s hatful; not that many at the Emitrates will have seen the majority of them hit the back of the net.

After some ups and downs, Real Sociedad have finally ensured top flight football will be played at the Anoeta for another season  and, although it has not been a particularly productive campaign for the Basque side, Philip Montainer’s men have managed to achieve their pre-season objective of avoiding relegation.

One big reason for this was the post-January form of Mexican international Carlos Vela, on loan at the club from English side Arsenal. Apart from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronadlo, no one in La Liga has scored more goals in the second half of the season than Vela. The 23-year-old has scored 10 goals in 2012,  tying him with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and Rayo Vallecano’s Diego Costa  as the third highest goalscorer in the second half of this campaign. Messi leads this category with a staggering 28, while Ronaldo has scored an impressive 22.

Vela has also surpassed his total assists from the first half of the season; making four since the turn of the year compared to the three he made in the last four months of 2011.

Talking about improvement, only Jonas from Valencia has improved his goal total by a larger margin than Vela; the Brazilian has bagged eight more goals in the second part of the season than he did in the first,  netting just once before January. Vela has scored five times more goals in the second half of the season than in the first 10 to two. Diego Costa, of course, has scored all his goals in 2012 but this is because he missed the first half of the season through injury.

From the 21 players who have scored 10 or more goals in La Liga this season, only nine have scored more goals in the second half than in the first. Apart from Vela and Diego Costa with 10 and Jonas with nine, there is also Koné, Rubén Castro, Rondón, Negredo, Raúl García and of course Messi who have bettered their goal tallies from the first half of the season.

‘Carlitos’ is la Real’s top scorer with 12 goals this season, followed by Imanol Agirretxe who has 10. Vela is also the third highest goalscorer among all the teams in the bottom half of the table – only Rayo’s Michu with 15 and Rubén Castro of Betis with 14, have been more prolific. Vela’s goals have proved vital in his team’s fight to avoid relegation, and his last five goals have come in four draws where he was the only scorer for Montanier’s side.  La Real have also only lost twice this season when Vela has got on the score sheet.

In the second half of the season, Vela managed to score 35% of Real Sociedad’s goals (10 of 28) and had a direct participation (goals + assists) in 50% of the txuri-urdin celebrations. The player also scored twice as many goals as any other player in the team – Agirretxe with five was his closer competitor.

Vela’s improvement has a lot to do with his improved accuracy in the second half of the season. The Mexican has taken only seven more shots after new year (42 to 35) than he did before it. However, he managed to shoot on target 21 times compare to only 10 in the first half of the campaign.  Vela’s shot accuracy increased from 28% to 40% in 2012; scoring a goal every 4,2 shots in the second half compare to only every 17,5 he posted in the first half.

The statistics speak for themselves, and it has been a great few months for Vela; if not for his team. Where the player goes at the end of the seaso, is still to be decided, however. Vela is still an Arsenal player and his recent form may just persuade Arsene Wenger to give him another chance. One thing is certain though; Philip Montainer would love to have the second half of Carlos Vela at the Anoeta for another season.


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