Patience is a virtue but Wellington Silva has been waiting an awfully long time for an opportunity to make the breakthrough at Arsenal and now, despite him being 22 and finally eligible to play competitively in England, we are no closer to knowing whether he will get his chance to shine in North London.
The Brazilian U21 international has officially been on Arsenal’s books since 2011 but his association with the club predates that as he previously impressed for the Gunners’ U16 side during several trial stints. Since his move from Fluminense, Arsenal have farmed Wellington out on loan to five different Spanish clubs and he has scored a combined total of nine league goals during those spells.
During his most recent loan spell, however, at Almeria last season, Wellington demonstrated some signs of maturity despite his limited goal output. Mainly deployed on the right flank, although also capable of operating on the left, he provided six assists in La Liga and impressed with his dazzling trickery.
Whether that will be sufficient to earn him a place in the Arsenal first-team squad for next season, though, remains to be seen. One thing that is for certain is that this is a pivotal year for Wellington’s future at the club. He is reportedly open to an extension to his current contract, which expires next June, but, from this season, he will have to be named in the club’s Premier League and Champions League squads as a senior player if he is to feature in those competitions.
Of course, if he was sent out on loan again then those stipulations wouldn’t have to be taken into account, but, after waiting for so long, Wellington is desperate to finally feature for Arsenal at senior level. He hasn’t pulled on the red and white shirt since the summer of 2013, when he represented the U21s in pre-season, but now he can’t be classed as a youth player and he deserves to be playing senior football somewhere having been given an indication as to where his future lies.
At Arsenal he will certainly have his work cut out to even be a squad player, with Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck being genuine options out wide, whilst Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky have all been used on the flanks in recent times.
Pre-season is likely to be pivotal for Wellington as he seeks to stake his claim and the fact that Sanchez will be absent for the majority or perhaps all of the preparation matches, due to his participation in the Copa America, may present him with a window of opportunity.
It has been mooted in some quarters that Wellington could be sent out on loan to another Premier League side to help him to adjust to the English game. That would be a wise move, but it would only be worth going ahead with if the winger is a genuine part of Arsenal’s future plans.
Having seen Ryo Miyaichi discarded after failing to make the step up and with Joel Campbell having received limited game time off the back of some impressive performances at the World Cup, it is difficult, at this stage, to be optimistic about Wellington’s long-term future at the club.
There is much to admire about his game, though, including his varied skill-set, his pace and his recently-improved decision making. Wellington has waited a very long time to be given a chance at Arsenal but now he will have to wait just a little longer to find out his fate.