May 24, 2013
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The 2012-13 season was one to forget for Thomas Vermaelen, as the Arsenal captain and centre-back went from being one of the team's steadier players to a bench-warmer by the end of the year.
And with the duo of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker playing so well for Arsenal late in the season, it will be very, very difficult for Vermaelen to earn back his first-team place next term.
But that doesn't mean the Gunners should give up on him, even if plenty of teams would be interested in snatching him from Arsenal if he's made available.
From John Cross of the Mirror:
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger could be ready to listen to offers for his out-of-favour captain, as he looks to shake up his squad.
That has alerted several top clubs, including Manchester United, who are watching developments closely.
Unlike last year, when they reluctantly allowed Robin van Persie to move to their their rivals from Old Trafford, Arsenal would be willing sellers this time.
Barcelona are also keeping tabs on the situation.
As Cross notes, Vermaelen would like to remain at the club but could see his international spot with Belgium lost if he doesn't play. That could motivate the former captain to push for a move.
But there is another way of looking at this—it could also push him to work hard in the offseason and earn his spot back. He didn't earn the captain's armband by being a mediocre option at the position, after all.
And here's another option, albeit one I haven't seen discussed much—would Wenger ever consider giving him a run as a defensive midfielder similarly to how David Luiz was played in the role for Chelsea?
While Vermaelen doesn't have the athleticism or devastating shot of Luiz, he has always liked to join the attack and has the quickness and tackling acumen to play in a deeper midfield role. While he wouldn't be able to facilitate the attack from a deep-lying position like Mikel Arteta, he would certainly add a more physical presence to the midfield.
I know, I know, this may be a case where I want it to be "just crazy enough that it might work," when really it's just plain old crazy. But it's something to consider.
Besides, if Theo Walcott is given time playing at striker to keep him happy, why not play Vermaelen occasionally in the midfield to ensure he could be kept as centre-back depth?
Wenger will have to monitor this situation closely. If he feels Vermaelen will improve upon his form, add some healthy competition to the position and won't sulk if he opens the season on the bench, there is no reason to get rid of him.
But if Vermaelen is going to be a distraction if he isn't a first-choice centre-back next year and Wenger sees no potential for him as a holding midfielder—a slim possibility, I know—then perhaps the best option will be to sell him this summer.
But I hope it doesn't come to that. Vermaelen's form may have dipped this season, but he's a leader and high-character guy, and the sort of player you want to see kept at the Emirates.
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