Arsene Wenger has reminded his Manchester United counterpart Louis van Gaal that he is in charge of Thomas Vermaelen's future by stalling a deal to take the player to Old Trafford, reports Goal.
Vermaelen is believed to have agreed a contract in the region of £100,000-a-week with Manchester United, but Old Trafford officials have yet to agree a figure with Arsenal.
The Gunners are holding out for £11 million while Manchester United are staying firm on £8 million. With just one-year left on his Arsenal contract, Van Gaal will be confident of getting his man for the smaller price.
However, Wenger has personally put a pin in the transfer deal, telling Arsenal officials not to let Vermaelen leave until he sources and signs an adequate replacement. The Frenchman is currently working as a pundit at the World Cup but is believed to be using that position to scout potential summer signings.
The Arsenal boss has accepted that Vermaelen wants to leave and is open to the idea of selling to a direct Premier League rival for the right price. However, until a deal is in place to replace Vermaelen, he won't be leaving the Emirates Stadium.
The fact that Vermaelen has just one year left on his contract places Wenger in a precarious position. If talks break down with Manchester United, Vermaelen will most probably be offered to Napoli, who have asked to be kept informed of the situation.
However, if they can not sell the 28-year-old this year, they face a season with a player who does not want to play for the club and will most probably leave next year for free. Either way, it is not likely Vermaelen will be captain next year and keeping at the club risks putting a big split in the Arsenal dressing room. It is best for both parties if he departs, but Wenger is not in the same position as he was two years ago with Robin van Persie.
The Dutch striker had a lot of value even with just one year left on his contract and it made financial sense to sell him for £24 million. Vermaelen at £8 million is not a bigger hit and it may be worth taking the hit and keeping him at the club if a player of equal or better quality can not be bought.
Is Wenger right?
With Wenger set to face a new manager at Manchester United, it is important for the veteran to lay down the law to Van Gaal and to prove he is not the pushover who let his captain Van Persie leave for a rival two years ago.
If Vermaelen leaves, Wenger has placed vital importance on it being under his own terms. The manager does not seem to bothered by the prospect of losing this club captain, and it may even be a good opportunity to rid himself of a player he didn't want anyway.
The departure of Vermaelen would leave Arsenal desperately short at centre-back with only Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny remaining in that instance. One centre-back should join regardless of Vermaelen's future, but sealing him before the departure would go a long way to appeasing fans tired of seeing their former stars playing for rival clubs.
Should Van Gaal move on?
Wenger is an infamously slow mover in the transfer market and the fact that he wants to sign a replacement before Vermaelen leaves could delay the transfer for weeks. If that occurs, it might be better for the new Manchester United boss to assess other targets.
Vermaelen is not exactly the perfect figure to replace Nemanja Vidic and would come with a point to prove after 18 months of inconsistent form. There are other options on the market available for a similar price and Van Gaal will do well to keep his options open.
If Wenger can't find a suitable replacement, it is likely Vermaelen will see out his contract in north London, leaving Manchester United scrambling around for an alternative. They need to prepare themselves for such an occurrence now.