Gunners gambling on Vermaelen fitness

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Arsenal announced earlier today that defender Thomas Vermaelen has signed a new long-term contract at the Emirates.

The Belgian international enjoyed a fantastic first season with the Gunners after joining for a reported £10 million in the summer of 2009, scoring goals and helping an improved defensive effort as the centre back clocked-up 45 appearances in all competitions.

However, an Achilles problem meant the 25-year-old featured only five times last season, and an ankle injury at the start of the current campaign has raised major concerns over the player's long-term fitness.

When fit, there is little doubt that 'The Verminator' is an automatic starter in north London, and Arsene Wenger is delighted with the deal.

"We are absolutely delighted. Our plan is always to sign top quality players and with Thomas extending his contract, we have done just that," he told the official Arsenal website.

"Thomas is a special player, who has always made a huge contribution on the pitch and we are looking forward to him being a part of our future."

After Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy ran down their contracts to a final year, Wenger was forced into a selling position this summer, and it's an issue which continues to have an impact on the Gunners.

Fears over the futures of Robin Van Persie, Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin, who all have contracts expiring in 2013, have left fans dreading a possible fire-sale next summer, with the Dutch skipper understandably wanted by a number of clubs.


Whilst the terms remain unknown, Vermaelen was another player who fans feared could leave, but it was always his intention to stay with the club.

"I always had the intention to stay here. I feel there is a big belief in me from the Club, from the boss and from the fans and that is one of the reasons why I stayed. Arsenal is a fantastic Club," he said on the official site.

"Of course you always have to prove yourself. If you're playing well you're a good player and if you're playing bad then you're a bad player, that's the way football goes.

"I think I came back last season after the injury and I felt great. I always want to prove myself and show that to everybody."

It's no secret that defensive frailties have been a major issue of concern at the Emirates in recent years, not helped by the consistent absence of the former RKC Waalwijk loanee.

After failing in a well-publicised effort to sign Gary Cahill, Wenger moved for German international Per Mertesacker on deadline day.

The former Werder Bremen centre back is yet to persuade everyone that he's the future of the Arsenal defence, but alongside Vermaelen the pair certainly have the credentials - and ability - to be a formidable partnership.

Vermaeen was impressive in pre-season. (©GettyImages)

Indeed, any success that Arsenal may have this season will be built on the duo, along with Polish international stopper Wojciech Szczęsny, who has proved himself as the club's No.1 at the start of this season.

Should injury strike again, then a lack of depth in the position could be exposed for all to see, with the club's attacking threat all too often underwritten by frailties in the back line.

A staple of their side during the successes of the 90s, a 'throwback' to the era of Adams, Keown, Bould, Winterburn and Dixon is unlikely, but tightening up the defence will give the club its best chance of moving towards the top four once again.

Vermaelen is key to this possible success, and will be for years to come after penning a new deal at the Emirates. All Arsenal fans will have their fingers crossed that his bad luck on the injury front is well-and-truly behind him.

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Thomas Vermaelen
Premier League

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