Thomas Vermaelen’s first few matches for Arsenal back in 2009 gave fans the perfect insight into the type of player he is.
Though the Belgian international, signed from Ajax for £10million, was a resolute central defender who could double up as a full-back, it was his prowess moving forward which caught the eye of English critics from the off. In his Premier League debut Vermaelen joined a long list of Arsenal players to have scored in their first competitive fixture for the club, and went on to bag a brace against Wigan four games later.
The culmination of the 28-year-old’s maiden campaign saw him end with eight goals to his name; not bad going for a centre-half. Vermaelen’s unconventional method of going about his duties make him exciting to watch and a constant threat to opposing sides and, though he’s never enjoyed a season quite like his first at the Emirates Stadium since, he remains very much a defender who offers more than the average individual.
Yet Arsenal fans now appear set to wave goodbye to the man Arsene Wenger made full-time Gunners captain in 2012, as the more assured partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have won the day. From the outside looking in it seems as though Wenger wants his defense to be solid, not overly ambitious, and is willing to substitute Vermaelen’s aptitude when on the ball in order to guarantee that.
£12million is said to the asking price on the Belgian star’s head, as Arsenal look to cash in one of their more senior heads whilst he retains some market value. Try as they might Manchester United have yet been unable to negotiate that fee down, and now Barcelona have joined them in being attracted to the idea of landing a seasoned Premier League star who has seen his stock plummet over the course of a year.
With the initial shock factor from Louis van Gaal’s supposed approach for Vermaelen somewhat lessened having been regurgitated by the media on a frequent basis, Arsenal fans now seem oddly at home with the perceived idea that he could become the libero in United’s new 3-4-2 setup. The notion of him teaming up with Phil Jones, or even perhaps Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels, has been fuelled by mainstream speculation, and were he to move to Old Trafford it would come now as little surprise.
Would it be the right move for him though? You would have to say no. With Barcelona said to be weighing up their options ahead of a possible move it makes far more sense for Vermaelen to wait, and base his decision on whether or not Luis Enrique can match what Van Gaal is offering with regards to promised game-time.
Barca the better option
For a switch to the Nou Camp is far better for the Belgian international in the long-run, not least because the Catalan giants’ style of play would bring the best out of his obvious proclivity when it comes to making himself a danger in an attacking sense, not just a safety in a defensive one.
The departure of Carles Puyol has left Barca in a predicament that they have not experienced for a number of years, and the likelihood is that the powers that be are still conspiring to ensure that he’s adequately replaced despite the fact that they announced the signing of Jeremy Mathieu earlier this week.
Pep Guardiola’s tenure may be a distant memory now but his philosophy towards every player on the team being able to pass and move with equal effectiveness remains a core value at Barca, and Vermaelen is just the sort of player they’re looking for.
A move to United would upset the applecart, give the man a chance to rub Wenger’s face in it and promise him regular opportunities to play, but it’s a transfer to Barcelona, and a side which would actively look to utilise his ability on the ball rather than off of it which is the avenue he should be looking for.