01 August 2014

Vermaelen to Vanchester continues to vex Wenger...

As we prepare to face Benfica in the Emirates Cup, there's a lot of talk of who we will and won't see. We won't see Mertesacker, Podolski, or Özil, who are resting; nor will we see Walcott, Ospina, or Sanogo, who are injured. We may or may not see Alexis, Debuchy, or Chambers. Another Gunner is listed as injured, but this might be a gambit of sorts related to a potential transfer. We won't see Thomas Vermaelen, our nominal captain, because he apparently has picked up an injury. He's not in any pictures of the squad training, for what that's worth. Has the time come for Tom to be gone?
All signs point to yes. He's not been a good enough defender for us for some time now, playing at centre-back only when injuries or suspensions to others allow it. We arguably got better centre-back play from Sagna in the few instances he slotted over than when Vermaelen was playing his preferred position. Deployed at left-back and right-back at times, the man has been reduced to an afterthought for both club and country. At his age (28), he surely wants first-team action. It's unlikely he'll get it at Arsenal. Per and Kos partner too well together, and the arrival of Chambers suggests that Arsène is looking beyond Vermaelen for our centre-backs going forward. 

He'd be the ideal signing for Man U. For one, they've lost a great of experience and skill from last season's defense, with Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, and Buttner gone. Smalling, Jones, and Evans are sure to step up, but Van Gaal needs to re-load, and fast. Under Van Gaal, Vermaelen would likely thrive. He's the kind of forward-thinking defender that would fit in well with Van Gaal's system.  With Vermaelen's market-value sliding ever-downward, it's probably in our best interests to unload him, even if this means we have to find a replacement. We've been lucky that neither Per nor Kos has succumbed to serious injury woes, but luck always run out at some point. Much as I might like to blithely say that Chambers can simply slide over or that Djourou is ready for a triumphant return, we really should have a third high-quality centre-back, perhaps even a fourth.

I know that the idea of reading another round of headlines bleating "Arsenal lose ANOTHER captain to Man U" could be painful, but this is hardly the same ball of wax. It's been clear for some time that Vermaelen can't crack our starting line-up, not as a centre-back, not as a right- or left-back, and not, as is so often suggested, as a defensive-midfielder. So he might as well be on his way to a club that needs his services but perhaps has lower amibitions. Man U appears to fit that bill quite nicely. However, if we are to sell to a league-rival, we should extract as much out of them as we can. Vermaelen's market-value hovers somewhere in the £12m range. If Man U want him, they can have him—for £25m. If they stick to £12m, we insist on getting Kagawa as make-weight.

After all, Man U's need for an experienced, familiar-with-the-Prem centre-back, coupled with Van Gaal's system, make Vermaelen the perfect centre-back for their needs. All the more reason to sell the man on—to Barcelona or Napoli. I don't mind losing Vermaelen. He had his moments, both good and bad, but we're not content to finish fourth (not that we ever were). We have serious designs on winning the Prem, and I can't quite convince myself that he's the captain or the centre-back we need to get us there. He's taking his lumps about as well as anyone can, and out of respect to his loyalty, if not his quality, we should send him somewhere where he can actually play. All the best to you, Tommy.