In a summer during which Manchester United have been linked with moves for Mats Hummels, Marco Reus, Arturo Vidal and Angel di Maria, the presence of Thomas Vermaelen sticks out like a sore thumb.
Fortunately for the Red Devils, that particular Belgian bullet has been well and truly dodged after the former Arsenal defender completed a £15m switch to Barcelona in a transfer that has left more than a few football fans, not just of the Gooner persuasion, scratching their heads.
Make no mistake, when Vermaelen first arrived at the Emirates back in an initial €10 million he looked every bit the Premier League defender, and enjoyed a notably prolific debut season in front of goal for the Gunners with eight to his name from that first campaign.
Injuries curtailed his impact during the 2010-11 season, but when the defender returned the following season, the goals and fine defensive displays largely continued though there was the occasional lapse in concentration, with an own goal in a top-flight clash with Fulham standing out.
But what started as a trickle of tiny errors in terms of positioning and distribution turned into a downpour during the 2012/13 campaign as Vermaelen endured nightmare performances against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League and Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Eventually dropped in favour of a pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, Arsenal’s have improved defensively since Vermaelen’s departure from the starting team.
An unused substitute in the FA Cup final last season, the Belgian looked destined for a north London exit, though few would have expected a move to Barcelona.
A series of competent displays for Belgium at the World Cup may have helped his cause, but the reality is that the Catalan club have bought badly when it comes to defenders for years.
Previous Arsenal recruit Alex Song has struggled in a defensive role at the Nou Camp since moving from the Emirates for £16m, while the likes of Henrique and Dmytro Chygrynskiy were brought in for big money but both failed to deliver solidity to the backline.
At least in those instances the player arrived fit and ready – Vermaelen is carrying an injury with him to Spain.
Barcelona shelled out £15m for Belgian, in a deal that actually saw Arsenal make a profit on the player, but they could pay a lot more in La Liga and the Champions League this term.
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