After being pushed out of Arsene Wenger's first team for much of the 2013-14 campaign, Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen's days at the Emirates always seemed numbered.
A summer battle between Manchester United and Barcelona ensued for the Gunners centre-back, per the Daily Star's Jeremy Cross, but it was the Catalans who eventually landed his services.
Barcelona announced the news on Saturday on their website:
"FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC have reached an agreement for the transfer of the Belgian international, who will sign a five-year contract with the Catalan club."
The club's website talked about what appealed to them about the player:
As well as his defensive presence, the 28 year old defender is also known for possessing great vision. This is why the Belgian international can not only play at the centre of the defence, but also has the natural ability to play at left-back.
He’s a versatile player who has played in two of the most important European leagues, like the Dutch and the English, in order to gain experience and become a top central defender. For some time now he has been an important figure in the dressing room, because he was captain of both Ajax and Arsenal.
Vermaelen had one year remaining on his contract, and according to The Telegraph's Matt Law, Arsenal were willing to offer him a new deal. However, he wasn't interested in playing backup any longer.
Just passed the medical with FC Barcelona. Tomorrow official presentation and signing. pic.twitter.com/cEPTJ2JSFJ— Thomas Vermaelen (@T_Vermaelen05) August 9, 2014
The Belgian international had a successful move to Arsenal from Dutch side Ajax in 2009, but injuries eventually curtailed his progress. He ended up playing second fiddle to Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny this past season.
A lack of first-team action last term—Vermaelen logged just seven Premier League starts and 781 total minutes, per Soccerway.com—may make this an underwhelming addition for Luis Enrique and his staff, but it's an economical move that could certainly pay off.
Although he didn't do much this past season, Vermaelen is a ball-playing defender who is comfortable with the ball at his feet and dangerous in the air. According to WhoScored.com, he averaged 2.5 aerial duels won per match throughout his time at the Emirates, serving as one of the most potent goal-scoring center-backs in England:
How would you grade this signing?
He hasn't been as good the last two years as he was early in his Arsenal career, and he'll need to improve his positional play, but Vermaelen looks to be a nice addition for the price.
Barcelona were too reliant upon makeshift centre-back Javier Mascherano last season, but they should be stronger with the additions of Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu.
Football writer Samuel Jay C queries whether the Catalan club has overspent for those additions:
Thomas Vermaelen: Despite featuring in only 110 of 190 PL games in the last 5 seasons, Vermaelen is the 4th highest scoring CB (13 goals)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 16, 2014
As for Wenger, he has some work to do this summer. Right-back Bacary Sagna left for Manchester City, and while Vermaelen was no longer starting, he provided depth at both centre-back and left-back.
Barça spending £30.7m on Mathieu & Vermaelen. Real bought Varane for £8m. #LaLiga— Sam (@samuelJayC) August 8, 2014
Still, this is a move that has been on the horizon for a while. Wenger secured the transfer of talented right-back Mathieu Debuchy fresh off a tremendous showing for France at the World Cup, and Arsenal shouldn't have much trouble coping with the loss of their captain.
Calum Chambers' versatility also provides cover, and Wenger may yet dip back into the market to boost his options.
Overall, this is a move that makes plenty of sense for both sides. The only genuine losers are United.