Is Cedric Mongongu Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen Transfer Replacement?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJuly 30, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  Captain Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal passes the trophy to Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal (R) after the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium on May 17, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Arsenal centre-back/left-back Thomas Vermaelen is heading for the exits, so could he be replaced by Evian Thonon Gaillard's Cedric Mongongu?

Vermaelen has been linked with a move to Manchester United, per Rob Dawson at the Manchester Evening News.

To cover the hypothetical scenario of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger targeting Mongongu, here is a scouting report on the 25-year-old Congolese international. 

Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press



At 6'3" and 181 poundsMongongu possesses the prototypical physical tangibles associated with a top-flight centre-back. 

Outweighing and being taller than Vermaelen (5'11", 165 pounds), Mongongu has a considerable physical advantage. 

Mongongu uses his length to manufacture late defensive plays. Below, he's seen deflecting Monaco attacking midfielder Lucas Ocampos' shot onto the crossbar.


After dribbling past Evian goalkeeper Bertrand Laquait, Paris Saint-Germain forward Ezequiel Lavezzi's effort was blocked by Mongongu.


Last season, Mongongu accumulated 80 interceptions in league play, a total Vermaelen has never topped (personal best: 67, 2011-12). 

Mongongu can assert his influence on games by creating turnovers: 




A play against Toulouse encapsulates the type of influence Mongongu could have for Arsenal:

  • Positioned perfectly to intercept Toulouse wing-back Issiaga Sylla's cross. 
  • Launched a counter-attack with a clearance to Evian substitute Clarck N'Sikulu.



One quirky aspect of Mongongu's game is that he took penalties ahead of top scorer Kevin Berigaud, free-kicker extraordinaire Daniel Wass and the technically superb Cedric Barbosa.

Mongongu went 4-for-5 in Ligue 1 penalties last season.

He would be a trusted spot-kicker if Arsenal were involved in a penalty shootout (the Gunners won the 2005 FA Cup final via shootout and beat Wigan Athletic on penalties in the 2014 FA Cup semi-finals). 

Converted penalty (93rd-minute game-winner) vs. Toulouse goalkeeper Ali Ahamada (penalty-saving expert):


Converted penalty vs. then-Nice (now Arsenal) goalkeeper David Ospina:


Converted penalty vs. Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama (Ligue 1's best goalkeeper, per L'Equipe):


Converted penalty (84th-minute game-winner) vs. Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic:


Penalty saved by Reims goalkeeper Kossi Agassa (85th minute, Reims won 1-0). 




Unlike Arsenal summer signings Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and Ospina, there is an "not applicable" tag when evaluating Mongongu at the highest level. 

Wenger can justify signing an unproven right-back like Calum Chambers, 19, on upside. Meanwhile, at 25 years of age, Mongongu has not achieved anything noteworthy. 

Breaking down Squawka's statistics, Vermaelen is superior to Mongongu in tackles won, clearances and aerial duels won per 90 minutes:


While Mongongu can be an interception machine, he is a weak tackler. He only completed 33 tackles in 34 Ligue 1 games last season. 

In situations where Mongongu is unable to cut off passes, he has been exposed. Here, he was liable when Bordeaux forward Cheick Diabate scored:


Then-Montpellier (now Newcastle United) attacking midfielder Remy Cabella accelerated away from Mongongu with a swift step-over to score:


Speaking of Cabella, he more than doubled (2.0) Mongongu's tackles per game output (0.9).


Bottom Line 

If Vermaelen leaves Arsenal, Wenger needs to find the next Mehdi Benatia, as opposed to paying a premium for a Jeremy Mathieu-calibre player.

What do I mean by the next Mehdi Benatia? An undervalued centre-back who drops beneath the radar of Europe's superpower clubs. 

Roma signed Benatia, a late-bloomer like Mongongu, from Udinese for €13.5/£10.7 million in 2013.

Benatia's transfer stock has since gone through the ceiling, as he was the main reason why Roma conceded only 25 goals in 38 Serie A games.  

Mongongu flashed elite play from centre-back last season. 

Mongongu can go from strength to strength like Laurent Koscielny did at Arsenal.



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