Although Thomas Vermaelen watched his playing time diminish last season, Arsenal must tread carefully into the transfer waters. Moving him without bringing in an experienced center-back to fill the void could come back to haunt the Gunners.
Vermaelen made just 14 Premier League appearances last season with half of them coming as a substitute. Arsene Wenger instead turned to the combination of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the center of defense.
That tandem is set to remain in place heading into the new campaign. It means the club's captain is likely to endure another season with a lack of playing time.
Sky Sports passed along comments from Wenger about the situation. He admitted it's not an ideal scenario for the Belgian and could ultimately result in his exit.
"It could happen. Yes, it's a possibility that he goes and if he goes we have to replace him because he is an important player in our squad," the longtime boss said.
"I expect him to stay but of course he did not play enough games last year. For me he is a very important player but I couldn't give him the games that he wanted last year so I will see."
If Vermaelen wants out it would be hard to blame him. It's very difficult for any athlete who's enjoyed success to spend a majority of the time on the bench during what should be their peak seasons.
That said, Arsenal have a busy season ahead after qualifying for the Champions League. They can't afford to get caught without sufficient depth at the back because that means injury could derail all of their title hopes.
Should a Vermaelen deal emerge, they shouldn't allow it to get completed until there's a definite deal in place for a replacement. It's simply too risky to let him leave and then enter the transfer market late trying to fill the void.
Where will Vermaelen be when the transfer window closes?
Without him, as the squad stands now, someone would be forced to play out of their natural position or the Gunners would have to call on Ignasi Miquel.
Calum Chambers is a former midfielder who thrived following a move to right-back. His size makes him an ideal option to make the transition to center-back, but that's going to take time. Thrusting him to a key role in the middle this season amounts to a very tough ask.
Wenger must consider all of those possibilities while the transfer talk heats up.
Manchester United have been given the green light to move for Thomas Vermaelen after Arsene Wenger admitted the Arsenal captain could leave the club before the close of the transfer window. However, United face competition from Barcelona for the Belgian defender's signature with Arsenal preferring to sell abroad and not to a direct rival.
Some have pointed out that Vermaelen didn't showcase top form even when he did get a chance to play last season. But it's very difficult to play your best while only getting sporadic appearances. The fact United and Barcelona are involved shows he's still a coveted commodity.
His strong play in previous seasons, his experience against top competition and his leadership ability are valued. And though he does deal with positioning issues at time, he makes up for it by providing some support to the attack, as WhoScored notes:
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
Ideally, Wenger and Co. will be able to convince Vermaelen to say. He won't get full-time duty barring an injury, but with the busy schedule Arsenal are going to face if they advance in the various competitions, he should get on the field more regularly than last season.
It's best if he stays, because if he leaves, Arsenal will be looking for somebody with very similar ability to fill his place. And it's hard to convince players of that caliber with experience to make a switch without knowing how much they will play.
Arsenal also can't afford to enter the campaign without a proven backup center-back. That's something Wenger clearly understands based on his remarks.
All told, the risk associated with moving Vermaelen is sky high. The club must make sure its ready to deal with that before letting him go.