In the wake of Carlos Puyol hanging up his boots for Barcelona, first-year manager and former Barca great Luis Enrique has come into selection problems at the Camp Nou before the season begins. Lacking options in central defense, Enrique has trained his sights on Arsenal center back Thomas Vermaelen.
Few, if any, will tell you that Vermaelen is seen as expendable at the Emirates these days; oh how times have changed, eh? The Spanish giants submitted a bid of 10million pounds for the player, and if anyone tells you that this would not a good bit of business for the club, they are surely having a laugh.
Vermaelen came to the club via Dutch superpower Ajax Amsterdam in 2009 at the age of 23. Despite his youngish age, Vermaelen was already highly regarded in Amsterdam, breaking into the first-team in the 2005-2006 season, making 98 appearances in four seasons; the second-half of his last season at the club saw him serve as captain after Johnny Heitinga moved to Atletico Madrid.
His first season in London was a massive success. Vermaelen made 45 total appearances in all competitions, netting an impressive eight goals in the process. The following season only saw him make five appearances, as he would suffer a long-term achilles injury that kept him out for the entire season; but he would bounce back in the 2011/2012 season, making 40 appearances and scoring six goals.
Vermaelen’s career at Arsenal took a nose dive from which it would never recover once Arsene Wenger (and the supporters as well) settled into the love affair with the center-back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny; rightfully so, as the pair would become one of the best partnerships in the league. Vermaelen found it harder and harder to get first-team football, which has now led to his status at the club being that of “no longer needed.”
Original interest in the player came this summer from Manchester United, but Barcelona have been sniffing around the player for the past few seasons, though nothing concrete would ever come come from their gazes from afar. With the purchase of Calum Chambers, the first-choice pairing of Mert and Kos being healthy as ever and Kieran Gibbs blossoming into a fine left-back, it’s surely the moment to call time on the Belgian’s Arsenal career.
Surely, 10million pounds is a good piece of business by the club if they were to sell; Vermaelen is not a first team regular, so the money received would be a fantastic for a return for a player who only prominently featured for the club in just two of his five seasons. The problem however, comes with the notion that, with his possible departure, Arsenal only have two and a half (Chambers being the half, seeing as how he can play a multitude of positions) center-backs at the club; if you dare say Ignasi Miguel should be in the first team, you may want to consider counseling.
It’s been rumored that Wenger may turn to want-away Liverpool center-back and Danish international Daniel Agger, but if you’ve seen him recently, such a move should incite riots at the Emirates; he’s not the grade for Liverpool, let alone for Arsenal. Further rumored interest in Barcelona center-back Marc Barta on a season-long loan could be a very good move. With the protracted move of Eliaquim Mangala from FC Porto to Manchester City looking near completion, there is also rumors of interest in a move for Matija Nastasic, who has been put up for sale by the club.
Whatever the aftermath of a move away for Vermaelen may be, two things are certain; 1. Vermaelen is finished at the club and both parties are okay with that, and 2. that Arsenal could well struggle to find PROPER depth at the position to replace the departed.
So thank you, Thomas Vermaelen, there were plenty of good memories – unfortunately (or, well, fortunately), not all love affairs are meant to last. While I do appreciate your enthusiasm when lifting the FA Cup trophy in May, this truly is the best option for us all…now go, before I change my mind.