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Vermaelen Wins a Treble – That’s Football Sometimes

Vermaelen – Celebrating more times than he has actually played


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 in the tail end of the 2012/13 season, winning eight league games and drawing two games to pip Tottenham to fourth place.

Vermaelen spent a considerable chunk of the 2013/14 season on the bench and he expressed his disappointment of not getting enough playing time which facilitated his move to Barcelona last summer. He was plagued with several injuries with Barcelona after sealing the £15 million move from Arsenal and it took him 10 months to make his debut for the team, which lasted just over an hour. Arsenal replaced Vermaelen with Gabriel Paulista in January and Gabriel made his debut before the Verminator.

Last night, Vermaelen’s fairy tale campaign with Barcelona continued last night as his team won the treble after defeating Juventus in the Champions League final. Ivan Rakitic (Cesc Fabregas replacement lol), Luis Suarez and Neymar Junior scored the goals that put the Old Lady to the sword. With the ref blowing the final whistle, the celebrations began in earnest with Vermaelen and his teammates dancing with joy as they basked in the euphoria of winning yet another trophy.

This means that Vermaelen has celebrated more times for Barcelona than the amount of times he has actually played for the Catalans.

With Javier Mascherano aging and Jeremy Mathieu still struggling to get into the team, Vermaelen can mount a considerable challenge for a first team berth next season. From a footballing standpoint, injuries have robbed the former Arsenal skipper for making his mark in the Barcelona team but he can count himself lucky to be part of one of the best football team.

Here’s to Vermaelen – a treble winner.


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Rating Arsenal’s Defenders Performances in the 2013/14 Season

In the 2013/14 season, Arsenal’s defense was much-improved and this was due to the fact that Arsene Wenger got his first-choice pairing right and he stuck with them till injuries or suspension took its toll on the defensive rearguard. The center back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were ever-present for the club, while club captain, Thomas Vermaelen, struggled with injuries, loss of form and lack of game time.

In the full back positions, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna were automatic starters whenever they were fit while their deputies, Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson, were restricted to a handful of appearances.

This is the second installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already shared my views on the performances of the goalkeepers but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s defensive rearguard.

Feel free to share your comments.

Bacary Sagna – 48 Apps, One Goal, Three Assists

In recent times, Bacary Sagna has been marred by long-term injuries that has taken its toll on his career. Suffering two fractures on the same leg must have been a horrific experience but as we all know, football isn’t really a forgiving sport.

With Carl Jenkinson deputizing admirably in Sagna’s absence, many wondered if the Bac Man would replicate the form that won him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year. At the start of the campaign, injuries to Vermaelen and Koscielny made Sagna start as a center back. Wenger gad featured him in that position at preseason so it was no surprise.

Sagna featured heavily for the Gunners and performed admirably in his defensive duties but in attack, he really failed to impress. The back passes were endless and there were times he looked clueless on what to do with the ball.

BacMan battling with Shrek

Then there was the niggling issue of his contract that was a thorn in Arsenal’s flesh throughout the season and finally, he jumped ship to Manchester City on a bumper deal that was too good for him to refuse. Nonetheless, it was a fair campaign by his standards and the fans are looking to the future.

Rating – 6/10

Kieran Gibbs – 41 Apps, One Goal, Two Assists

For the first time in Gibbs’ fledgling Arsenal career, he managed to amass his highest amount of games for the club. He even scored a lovely goal in the Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce when he latched on to Theo Walcott’s cross to score Arsenal’s first goal of the qualifying campaign.

Unlike Sagna, Gibbs was very inventive when he was in the final third and his recovery levels were top-notch this season. However, it would be very hard to forget Andre Marriner’s moment of madness in Stamford Bridge when he brandished Gibbs a red card for a sin Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain committed.

It’s unfortunate to know that Gibbs’ good form for Arsenal wasn’t enough for him to be called up by Roy Hodgson and in fairness to the England manager, Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw deserved to be on the plane to Brazil.

Rating – 7/10

Carl Jenkinson – 22 Apps, One Goal, Two Assists

With Koscielny and Vermaelen injured, Sagna was drafted to the center back position, allowing Jenkinson to get a run-out in the first team. Even when Koscielny returned to the first team, Jenkinson retained his place but as the weeks progressed the young Englishman resumed his bench warming duties.

His most memorable moment in September was that brilliant assist he created for Aaron Ramsey against Sunderland and he will also be remembered for clearing the ball off the line when Jozy Altidore out-muscled Sagna and played the ball past Wojciech Szczesny. Jenkinson reached his low point this season when he inadvertently supplied a pass to Cesar Azpilicueta in the Capital One Cup

His second assist of the season was a lovely pin-point cross to the World’s Best Released Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, that headed the ball home against Hull and on the final matchday of the season, Jenkinson scored his first goal for the club. A personal high for the young Arsenal fan.

Rating – 6/10

Nacho Monreal – 36 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

In Monreal’s first full season at the club, he proved that he was nowhere near Gibbs with his performances. He managed to create a good assist for Santi Cazorla when the Gunners visited Villa Park but Monreal played like a liability in some games, with his poorest performance coming up against Manchester City at the Etihad.

However, Monreal would be remembered for scoring the winning penalty in the Capital One Cup third round clash against West Brom.

Rating – 5/10

Thomas Vermaelen – 21 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

How the mighty have fallen.

I can vividly remember when Vermaelen joined the club in 2009 and he slammed in six goals in his debut campaign, rising to an indispensable status. With Robin van Persie leaving the club, Vermaelen was handed the captain’s armband and it ensured that he was a regular starter for the club and after a series of below-par performances, Arsene Wenger paired Laurent Koscielny with Per Mertesacker and they never looked back ever since.

bench warmer of life

Last season, the good form of both players relegated the captain to the bench for extended periods and he also had some injury demons to contend with. It was a welcome sight seeing the captain lift the FA Cup but one must wonder if he’s ready to spend another campaign on the bench next season.

Rating – 5/10

Laurent Koscielny – 46 Apps, Three Goals

It wasn’t all peachy and creamy for Koscielny at the start of the season when he conceded a penalty and got sent off against Aston Villa. In the Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce, Pierre Webo kicked his face leaving him concussed and he missed a couple of games to injury.

In his return, Koscielny and Mertesacker built on the telepathic understanding they had forged last season and the clean sheets started piling up for the Gunners, particularly at the Emirates. Koscielny also got in on the scoring act with goals against Sunderland and Newcastle but his most important goal was the equalizer for the Gunners in the FA Cup final.

It’s also heartwarming to know that he has signed a long term deal with the club.

Rating – 9/10

Per Mertesacker – 52 Apps, Three Goals

There was a reason Mertesacker played the most games for Arsenal this season. He is an exceptional footballer, a leader, and most importantly, a defensive colossus. His pairing with Koscielny has been heralded as the best pairing in the League and with 16 clean sheets to their name, it’s not hard to see why.

In the absences of Vermaelen and Arteta, Mertesacker also wore the captain’s armband and his performance against Dortmund in his native Germany was one of the best performances I’ve seen from a defender in a game. Mertesacker would have been a pantomime villain if the penalty he conceded against Wigan turned out to be the deciding factor of the game but he showed off great determination to be on the right end of the pitch to head the ball home, sending the game into extra time.

I can’t wait to see the BFG next season.

Rating – 9/10

So there you have it, the second of four posts focused on different playing positions in the team. My take on the midfield comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2013/14 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.


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The Curious Case of Arsenal’s Defense: Retain Sagna and Give Vermaelen Game Time

Despite the fact that some personnel in Arsenal’s attack are taking all the plaudits for their recent outstanding performances thus far, it’s high time we have a detailed look of some of the headlines dominating at the defense. Gooner Daily welcomes guest writer, O. Valentine, an avid Arsenal fan, as he shares his thoughts on the current situations surrounding Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen…

In recent weeks, the rumor mills and gossip wheels in the red sphere of North London have been spilling salivating transfer possibilities that have invariably kept Arsenal enthusiasts busy.

In the wake of Arsenal’s spectacular run of form, the insatiability seems obvious amongst pundits and fans alike that have largely opined that the team still exudes some void and that only prompt reinforcement – from the winter transfer market of course – would salvage the quest to end the eight years trophy drought by May.

While everyone would categorically applaud the unforeseen arrival of Mesut Ozil which has further harmonized the sturdiness and competitiveness of the team, the attack and defense – especially the center- and right back positions are not yet to magnet such encomium.

Evidently, the defensive partnership of the regular back four which consists of Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna have been firing on all cylinders. The telepathy between Koscielny and Mertesacker is a damn pleasurable sight and the full backs balance their defensive and offensive plays superbly.

However, there have been signs of unsettledness surrounding Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen as the former is yet to put pen to paper on a new deal while the latter has been frozen out of first-team action.

An iconic moment in Sagna’s Arsenal career

Now every Tom, Dick and Harry in the media are crisscrossing the Premier League, Ligue 1, Serie A, Bundasliga and La Liga, giving Wenger some wild and weird ideas by unearthing random possible replacements for the CB and RB position in the event of Sagna and Vermaelen’s departure.

Bacary Sagna is one of the club’s loyal stalwarts besides Tomas Rosicky, Nicklas Bendtner and returnee Mathieu Flamini. His Arsenal career – spanning from when he joined from AJ Auxerre 2007 is currently reaching its twilight and by winter he’s permitted to speak to new suitors.

Sagna has shown great commitment to the club over the years and his performances on the pitch have always been downright consistent. His mobility, agility, running down the flanks and covering for the wingers are worth commending and he has good technical abilities: cutting the ball at the touch line, sending crosses into the 18 yard and his often clean tackles.

Furthermore, his versatility on the pitch is unquestionable and has been working wonders for the team. He’s a typical Gunner and having stayed through the years, he clearly understands the philosophy and tenets that guides the club. He’s grown to become a valuable asset to the team and the Arsenal hierarchy must do everything in their power to retain his services.

Yes, he’s above the 30-year-old threshold but in my honest opinion, Carl Jenkinson has not garnered enough maturity and tactical judgment to take over the wheels completely. He’s a good player with a lot of potential but his rawness and naivety has been exposed countless times. He also needs to work hard on his distribution and positional awareness as he has proved that he’s susceptible to errors, which is rather understandable for a player his age.

Jenkinson struggled against Sunderland last season and got sent off

The good thing about the lad is that he’s willing to work hard to improve himself and he’s a Gooner by heart so he will have the backing of the fans for years to come. Arsene Wenger has done well to deputize him in games when Sagna has missed through injuries as well as lowly Cup ties that can further enhance his football education.

The painful tale of Thomas Vermaelen still remains sour in the mouth of every true thotoughbred Gunner. After arriving from Ajax, he rose to prominence in his debut campaign to become one of best players in the team as well as earning a place in the PFA Team of the Year.

Even the captaincy was laced on him deservedly after Robin van Persie departed to Manchester United. He became a fan favorite with a catchy nickname, the Verminator, but his fall from grace came earlier than expected.

Injury kick-started it and the meteoric rise of Koscienly/Mertesacker partnership cemented his predicament.

A rock-solid partnership

He even professed his desire to stay and fight for his place but Wenger’s consistent rigid selection policy is not helping his plight. The manager hardly rotates his starting XI and while the players getting regular game time start to suffer from fatigue, the players rotting on the bench (like Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal, Nicklas Bendtner et al) will be extremely match rusty, which won’t help the team’s cause.

Now he’s contemplating calling it quits and every other person seems to be giving him the nod to go away but I want him to stay. I know a lot of clubs would desire to have him on their team.

It’s a World Cup year and he needs to get a consistent run of games to get a place in the Belgium national team. I’m no soothsayer but I see a quick resurrection of his once glittering form, like in the case of Aaron Ramsey.

Following the departure of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Ramsey was tasked with the heavy burden of being Arsenal’s creative hub but he struggled for form and fitness making him a lightning rod for vitriol and abuse. After rediscovering his form, Ramsey is an unstoppable juggernaut and he has already smashed in nine goals this season with the latest being a magnificent solo effort against Norwich.

There are no arguments that Vermaelen’s form was very poor last season but he needs some faith and trust from the gaffer and fans. Unfortunately, Wenger is doing the exact opposite by not rotating his center backs despite the fact that the Gunners are considerably light in this position.

Honestly, I expected most fans to clamor for Sagna and Vermaelen to stay at the club, rather than deepening their woes by the unsolicited marketing of possible replacements who are in fact not better off.

If Arsenal can keep Bacary Sagna and give Vermaelen more games to rediscover his form, then we don’t need any defensive alien from Jupiter via the January winter market.

I Remain a Gunner Till Lucifer Repents!

O. Valentine

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