Arsene Wenger is ready to let Thomas Vermaelen join Manchester United but only if he can identify and sign a replacement first, reports The Daily Mail.
Arsenal are planning to step up their search for a defender after reports emerged that their captain had agreed a £100,000-a-week deal with Manchester United.
Vermaelen's agent later denied that an agreement was in place but it is believed Louis van Gaal is keen to take the 28-year-old to Old Trafford and that Arsenal are willing to sell for the right price.
Vermaelen spent the majority of last season on Arsenal's bench as Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny formed an impressive partnership and obvious friendship at the heart of the Gunners' defence. With just one-year left on his contract, Vermaelen is unwilling to agree an extension while his position in the starting XI remains unclear.
Rather than risk losing the Belgium international for nothing in the summer of 2015, Wenger is ready to cash in on him despite the fact Manchester United remain the only interested party.
However, Wenger knows that Arsenal risk finding themselves in a precarious position if he does not manage to replace Vermaelen before the transfer window closes. Arsenal have already lost Bacary Sagna, who acted as Arsenal's fourth-choice centre-back, and a Vermaelen exit would leave them with just two.
There are no players in the reserves that are deemed good enough to make the step up for next season meaning any replacement is going to have to come from external sources. Before Wenger agrees to rubber stamp Vermaelen's move to Manchester United, he will insist that a replacement is already at the club.
The urgent hunt for a new defender is likely to put Arsenal's hunt for a new striker on the back burner while Wenger also needs to sign a right-back, a goalkeeper and a defensive midfielder.
Manchester United would fill a big hole by signing Vermaelen after they lost both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic after their contracts expired. Van Gaal knows he needs options in defence and Vermaelen is believed to be keen on a move if first team football is on offer.
It would not be the first time in Wenger's reign that an Arsenal captain has moved to Manchester United although Vermaelen's transfer would likely be easier to take than Robin van Persie's.
The fact is that Vermaelen has no place in Wenger's squad and has failed to convince Wenger or Arsenal fans when given the chance to impress. As Vermaelen lifted the FA Cup trophy, the sense of awkwardness that filled Arsenal's end of Wembley Stadium was indicative of his position at the club. He no longer holds authority in the Arsenal dressing room and needs to leave.
Like Wenger, Arsenal fans would not be too devastated to see him at Manchester United so long as a viable replacement is brought in first.
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