Thomas Vermaelen: Pros and Cons of the Defender’s ‘Potential’ Exit in January
When Thomas Vermaelen graced the Emirates following a successful spell at Ajax, Arsenal fans were awed at his aggressive style of defending and no-nonsense attitude, as he worked in tandem with William Gallas winning a place in the 2010 PFA Team of the Year. In his first full season at Arsenal, Vermaelen scored six goals making him one of the highest scoring center backs in that campaign.
A nasty Achilles tendon injury haunted him in his second season with the club but the arrival of Laurent Koscielny was welcome as the Frenchman played alongside Johan Djourou to forge a formidable partnership. Following the departure of Robin van Persie at the start of last season, Arsene Wenger handed the captaincy over to Vermaelen and his labored performances last season showed that it was a big burden for him to bear.
After another shambolic performance against Tottenham, Wenger axed the skipper from the squad, bringing in Koscielny to play alongside the cool, calm and collected Per Mertesacker and together, Arsenal had a new solid base in defense to work with and the Gunners went on an amazing run, winning eight league games and drawing two games to pip Tottenham to fourth place.
This season, the Koscielny-Mertesacker combo picked up where they left off and the Gunners accumulated 10 successive wins since the opening day defeat to Aston Villa. With Vermaelen watching matches consistently from the dugout, it affected his chances of playing for his red-hot nation, Belgium, as Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany played together at the back in their recent qualifiers.
In the wake of Vermaelen’s lack of first-team action in recent weeks, he has expressed his concerns over missing out on a World Cup ticket to Rio and has stated that he may need to consider his future in January ahead of the World Cup,
“I’ll have to think about that when it’s necessary. “January is still a few months ahead. Of course, never playing will not be the ideal situation for me to go to the World Cup, that’s for sure.”
Vermaelen is either an injury or suspension away from getting a run-out in the heart of Arsenal’s defense and we cannot expect Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to play every grueling game this season, as the Gunners are currently challenging for four competitions.
However, should Vermaelen decide to submit a transfer request in January, here would be the pros and cons of his potential exit.
Arsenal Will Have to Invest in a New Defender
Vermaelen’s potential exit in January could rock Arsenal but if the Gunners replace him with a like for like defender, he may not be missed. The Gunners have been heavily linked with Swansea’s defensive lynchpin, Ashley Williams, and Vermaelen’s departure would pave the way for Williams to play alongside his compatriot, Aaron Ramsey, at the Emirates.
Arsenal Would Elect a New Captain that Would be an Inspirational Leader on the Pitch and off it
Thomas Vermaelen became Arsenal’s vice-captain behind the talismanic Robin van Persie and the baton was handed over to him when the Flying Dutchman departed to join Manchester United. Vermaelen’s reign as captain saw him put up some atrocious performances and his lashed clearance at Old Trafford fed the ball straight to van Persie and the pantomime villain wasted no time in punishing Arsenal.
Vermaelen’s vice-captain, Mikel Arteta, showed his true worth to the team when he obeyed his manager’s instructions to curb his attacking instincts to play as the club’s primary holding midfielder after the surprise departure of Alexandre Song. On the pitch, Arteta gives his all to the team and also leads by example by keeping a cool head to slot a couple of penalties when the need arises.
Should Vermaelen decide to leave Arsenal in January, the captaincy would be passed on to a player worthy of it, and in Per Mertesacker, the Gunners have an able vice-captain to Arteta.
A Gaping Hole in Defense
Arsenal is like a walking time bomb waiting to explode as they are desperately short at the back, but Arsene Wenger folded his arms and invested heavily in an attacking talent like Mesut Ozil. There was a period when Vermaelen was out for some weeks and Koscielny suffered a gashed head in the game against Fenerbahce, causing Bacary Sagna, a right back by trade, to deputize for the injured Frenchman.
If Vermaelen departs in January and the Gunners fail to replace him, there would be a gaping hole in the defense and the fans would come all blazing with their torches and pitchforks if the Gunners fail to achieve some success as they failed to replace a player with Vermaelen with equal or better talent out there.
The Potential New Signing has to Acclimatize to the Premier League
Even Koscielny and Mertesacker struggled when they joined the club but with more game time and acclimatization to their new surroundings, their performances improved drastically. Now, the Koscielny-Mertesacker combination is indispensable at the expense of the club’s captain, Thomas Vermaelen.
If the Verminator departs and the Gunners replace him with a new defender like Kyriakos Papadoupoulos, coming from a different footballing culture, he may struggle in the second half of the campaign and that may not go down well with the fans.
Despite the fact that Vermaelen may harbor some slight hopes of leaving in January, he also knows that an injury or suspension would pave a way for him to return to the team and he’s willing to take his chance,
“People ask me if I panic because I’m not playing a lot but I’m not. I have spoken to the manager but it will remain private between us. Things can happen in a split second and change my situation. That can happen tomorrow or next weekend.”
Wojciech Szczesny was also dropped alongside Vermaelen in the run-in but a Lukasz Fabianski injury allowed Szczesny to return to the side and since then, he hasn’t looked back. Now Szczensy has a hungry Fabianski and newbie, Emiliano Viviano waiting for him to cock up or get injured, but his dominant and commanding performances have shown that competition brings out the best in footballers.
Kieran Gibbs saw Nacho Monreal as a potential threat to his place when he was out injured but since his return, Gibbs has been a massively improved player, keeping a full international like Monreal on the bench. That’s what competition is all about.
At the start of the campaign, Vermaelen promised to stay and fight for his place. I really hope that he doesn’t chicken out in January 2014.
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