“I will stay at Arsenal forever. There will be no transfer for me.” Guess the player who made this statement a little under 18 months ago?
The correct answer is Thomas Vermaelen, who has struggled to hold down a first-team spot at Arsenal for the best part of two seasons, falling behind Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the central defensive pecking order.
Two of Vermaelen’s bigger issues were that he was becoming far more error prone than his defensive colleagues and lacked their dominance under the aerial ball.
Meanwhile, he seemed to be inclined to getting dragged towards play, which in turn left space in behind for the opposition to take advantage of. This was especially troublesome when partnered with Mertesacker, who is a contender for the slowest runner in the Premier League.
The fallout of Vermaelen’s lack of game time has been a dropping to a substitute’s role for the Belgium national team.
Not only is he behind Vincent Kompany, but he has now also been overtaken by Nicolas Lombaerts and Daniel van Buyten in the centre-half ranks. Meanwhile, he could also sit below full-backs Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld in the pecking order.
This does put his World Cup prospects at some risk and Vermaelen has now indicated that he may be willing to depart the Emirates in January, in search of first-team football.
Given his aggressive nature, comfort in possession and willingness to play attacking, forward passes, a loan move to Barcelona would look ideal, although there is a risk that he is giving up one bench for another.
The slower nature of Serie A would not look an ideal fit to Vermaelen’s style, but if he wants to be getting minutes at a high-profile club, then AC Milan would have to be an option.
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