And the award for the most bizarre, foolish and downright shocking transfer rumour of the summer so far goes to: the Daily Mail’s claim that Arsenal could be prepared to swap club captain Thomas Vermaelen for Manchester United flop Tom Cleverley.
Don’t worry, you read it right. That is the very same Arsenal who so recently passed up the opportunity to activate a buy-back clause on Francesc Fabregas, and the same one which boasts the likes of Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla, who routinely compete for places in one of the best midfields in England. Call it what you like; the notion of Cleverly joining the ranks at the Emirates Stadium is straight up ridiculous.
The main objection from most fans wouldn’t be that in exchanging Vermaelen they would be essentially swapping a reputable talent for a player who isn’t as good, nor that Arsene Wenger shouldn’t be looking to get rid of a player for anything less than money he can use to improve his own squad. It’s simply that Cleverly isn’t good enough.
Far from the allegations being based purely on a poor season for United last term - which would be unfair given the nature of their doomed campaign - the criticism heaped on the 24-year-old tends to stem from the fact that he hasn’t really ever added anything to his current club, despite having been playing with the first-team for the better part of three seasons now. Neither potent moving forward nor solid whilst defending, Cleverley looks out of his depth at the sort of level where every pass, movement and decision needs to be masterfully conducted.
Needless to say, it hasn’t taken long for Gunners fans to protest the idea of such a player being brought in by Wenger as he looks to further polish a side which could easily challenge for major honours next season with a slight bit of tinkering. Having opted not to bring back former captain Fabregas when he could certainly have done so, supporters would have been safe assuming that the midfield area was at the bottom of their manager’s list of priorities. And rightly so. The glittering array of creative stars already at their disposal are more than a match for all but the very best of opposition, and it would appear that even a player of Fabregas’ calibre isn’t required.
So why Cleverly? Unless the rumours have been preposterously cooked up with a view to stirring an already juicy transfer pot, Arsenal are mulling over the idea of letting Vermaelen strengthen United’s weak back line in exchange for a midfielder who is largely chastised by his own fans. Even the most avid Wenger fan would find it difficult to defend him were an agreement actually to be reached.
The proposal reeks of unambitiousness on Arsenal’s part, and it could well be that the club are just trying to bring someone in to ease the worries of those fans who want to see deals done sooner rather than later. The only other theory is that he could perhaps arrive as a rotation player who would have the legs to continue when the likes of the ageing Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta fall foul to fatigue. Regardless, Gunners fans would be well within their rights to reach for the pitchforks if their first signing of the summer was a player who saw England fans actively petitioning against his inclusion in this summer’s World Cup squad.
- At 24 there is time for him to develop his game and become the sort of player Sir Alex Ferguson clearly thought he was capable of being.
- His experience at United would stand him good stead for the pressure of being an Arsenal player, and he could learn things from the likes of Ozil and Cazorla.
- Serious question marks remain over his ability to ply his trade at an elite club, and there are far safer options out there for Arsene Wenger to consider.
- The Gunners already have a surplus of midfielders who are more accomplished that the Englishman, and the addition of a needless purchase could disrupt squad harmony.