With just a few weeks remaining in the 2013-14 English Premier League season, teams all over the country are gearing up for what looks to be one of the busiest summer transfer windows in recent memory.
Arsenal are one of the clubs expected to have a lot of turnover, and part of said turnover will be getting rid of several players in order to make room for the several new arrivals the fans are expecting. According to Calciomercato.com (via The Daily Mail's Mike Dawes), former club captain Thomas Vermaelen could be one of the players on the move.
Per the player's agent, Alex Kroes, Italian side Napoli are one of the clubs interested in the Belgian international, and the Partenopei have reportedly already made their move:
Yes Napoli have been on the player and have stepped forward, but other clubs have also shown their interest and not just Italian clubs.
At the moment we are not thinking about it. There's a World Cup to be played and we will postpone any discussions until afterwards.
You cannot say, though, that the player is close to a transfer to Napoli. I repeat: wait until after the World Cup, where Vermaelen is going to do his best, then we will consider any kind of offer regarding his future.
While the agent was quick to shoot down reports of a move to Italy being imminent, the fact he feels confident discussing offers from a foreign club means Vermaelen's future at the Emirates seems spotty at best.
Moving Vermaelen would be a mistake, however, and one Arsenal absolutely cannot afford to make.
The reason Vermaelen is no longer the team's first-choice centre-back or captain is twofold: Too many mistakes out on the pitch and the emergence of Laurent Koscielny, whose partnership with Per Mertesacker has brought some stability to a back line seemingly ever in turmoil.
No one can deny the progress Koscielny has made in 2013-14. The French international is clearly the team's top central defender, and his play this season has been that of one of the top defenders in the entire Premier League.
While one shouldn't assume Koscielny will be a one-hit wonder, it is only fair to point out the player hasn't always looked as impressive as he has in these last 12 months. Vermaelen himself was seen as one of the league's top defenders just two short years ago, indicative of how quickly things can change.
Mertesacker meanwhile has shown himself to be a very capable defender in the air, but the German has the mobility of your average satellite dish.
The German was supposed to be the answer to all of Arsenal's defensive woes when he was brought in from Werder Bremen, but in his three years at the club, he has never looked like an elite defender.
Should Arsenal sell Vermaelen?
So why is Mertesacker starting over Vermaelen? Because he deserves to do so right now. Vermaelen has been in Arsene Wenger's doghouse for a while now, and the Koscielny-Mertesacker partnership has worked best for Arsenal this season, so it's only logical Wenger has continued using them.
But where did things start to unravel for Vermaelen? Was it the seemingly continuous stream of injuries? While those certainly contributed, there is another, more vital factor: Vermaelen has been mismanaged since the day he arrived in London.
When playing for the Belgian Red Devils, Vermaelen plays like a star defender, often abusing opposing attackers with relative ease. Vermaelen gets to play his brand of football relying on his athleticism, excellent tackling skills and aerial abilities because he doesn't have to worry about setting the defense.
Vincent Kompany takes care of that, and while he has somewhat struggled with Manchester City in 2014, he has been his usual magnificent self for the Belgian national team. With Kompany taking care of the mental aspect of the defense, all Vermaelen has to do is dominate athletically.
He'll get caught out of position on occasion, sure. But Kompany will be there to fix it, allowing Vermaelen to do what he does best. The Arsenal defender isn't a natural born leader and doesn't play the game with particularly excellent vision, but as an athlete, there are few centre-backs like him.
At Arsenal, however, he has always been forced to be that other guy, the one running the defense. That's simply not what Vermaelen does best. When thrust into that role, mistakes are bound to follow, as we all witnessed first-hand.
But with the emergence of Koscielny, the Gunners suddenly have the opportunity to play Vermaelen in his natural role as the secondary defender, in support of a leader like the French international. Koscielny does have the vision and the voice to command the defensive line, and Vermaelen could absolutely shine next to him.
I'm not saying Vermaelen should be gifted the starting position next to Koscielny next season. But moving the player now, with his value lower than ever, would be a mistake. Chances are Vermaelen will remind Arsenal fans worldwide of the type of defender he can be in a couple of weeks, paired with Kompany in Brazil.
Can Koscielny and Mertesacker be trusted to hold down the fort should Vermaelen leave the club this summer? Personally, I wouldn't want to wager on it, but it would be even better if fans weren't forced to find out.
Vermaelen could still have a future at the club, and potentially even a very bright one. With that in mind, Wenger should make it very clear to the many foreign suitors that will come calling that his centre-back is not for sale.