Thomas Vermaelen Has Been the Most Disappointing Premier League Player This Year

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Thomas Vermaelen Has Been the Most Disappointing Premier League Player This Year
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Thomas Vermaelen has been nothing but a huge disappointment for Arsenal this season.

The Gunners' campaign continues to lurch from crisis to revival to crisis in such a way that their devolution into Tottenham Hotspur of yesteryear is now almost complete. And while a great many players, and not forgetting the manager, can claim to have played their part.

The worst culprit of all is perhaps the club captain, Thomas Vermaelen.

The Gunners' captain is now in his fourth season under Arsene Wenger, having joined the club from Ajax in 2009.

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Wenger was jubilant in his appraisal of the £10 million capture at the time, saying (via The Telegraph), "He is strong technically with a positive winner's attitude and I have no doubt his arrival will strengthen our team. Thomas Vermaelen will be a huge asset to Arsenal."

Vermaelen was equally ebullient and added: "Everything is set up for Arsenal to be very successful for years to come and I joined this club because I know Arsenal will be challenging for trophies."

2009 seems like a long time ago now.

There can be little doubt that Arsenal have been devolving as a club since they won the title with the Invincibles in 2004. Since then, the club's transfer, recruitment and succession planning policies have all been revealed as less than adequate.

So it is no surprise that the Gunners have slipped from a club who won the Premier League after an unbeaten season to one who are now struggling to finish in the top-four and who have won a trophy in eight seasons.

When Vermaelen was appointed captain following Robin van Persie's ill-advised short reign before his extraction to Manchester United, many Arsenal fans hoped the Belgian international would lead them back to the top of the table.

He had proved a more than capable defender and player for Arsene Wenger, and when Fabregas left, he was the unanimous choice to succeed him.

However, this succession combined with the Gunners' poor transfer policy seems to have had a huge effect on Vermaelen as a player. This campaign has seen Vermaelen having to deal with different partners on a regular basis and with different full-backs on an even more regular basis.

This constant changing of the guard by Arsene Wenger, in search of his best combinations, has undermined Vermaelen's game. However, as captain and as the lynch-pin of the team, he should be able to raise his game for any occasion and deal with every situation. 

It must be said that Vermaelen has never been a great defender. He is a ball-playing centre-half, and Wenger has struggled to find him a regular partner to cover his deficiencies since he initially signed.

In his first season at the club, he contributed an impressive six goals. The following season, 2010-11, was wrecked with injury, and he only played five games. 2011-12 was again a success at a personal level with seven goals.

If anything, these goals papered over the cracks of the defensive side of his game. This table shows Vermaelen's defensive statistics according to EPLIndex.com.

 

Matches

Clean Sheets

Conceded Per Game

Tackling

Interceptions

Defensive Errors

2009-10

33

10

1.03

70%

70

10

2010-11

5

1

1.2

50%

17

2

2011-12

28

9

0.89

83%

70

6

2012-13

22

5

1.27

86%

45

10

This term, his lack of concentration, physical strength and poor positional play has cost the Gunners many valuable points. 

In his 22 Premier League games to date, Vermaelen has a low average of just 1.6 tackles per game and just 1.8 interceptions per game.

This low-low average has Thomas Vermaelen ranked as the 658th most effective defender in European football according to WhoScored.com.

These poor statistics and amount of defensive errors are further highlighted when you analyse Vermaelen's matches on an individual basis. He has only stood out as a top performer twice all season, in a 2-0 win over Liverpool in September and then against Montpellier in November. In the rest of the games, he has hidden to a degree where he was nonexistent.

This dreadful return for a captain, who is supposedly a leader of men, is simply not good enough at any level and especially at a club with the stature and ambitions of Arsenal.

Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal's leader and captain, has been nothing but a huge disappointment this season.

 

Statistics provided by EPLIndex.com, WhoScored.com and PremierLeague.com

You can follow me on Twitter @WillieGannon

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