Thomas Vermaelen arrived on the shores of England after a good spell at Ajax Amsterdam. It was fabled that Vermaelen was watched over 49 times by Arsenal’s scouts to confirm that he was the man for the squad's defense.
The Belgian began his career in the 2000-'01 season in Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen, but he was quickly sent over the border to continue his education at Ajax.
It took him over four years to find his feet in Amsterdam, but a loan move to RKC Waalwijk in the 2004-'05 campaign did wonders to his confidence, and he returned to Ajax to stake his claim for a first-team place and never looked back.
After closing in on a century of league appearances for the Dutch outfit, he was snapped for £9.5 million by Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger, and he took the Premier League by storm in his debut season, making 33 appearances with an amazing haul of eight goals to his name.
His stellar performances didn’t go unnoticed, as he was awarded a place in the 2009 PFA Team of the Year.
Vermaelen didn’t have the chance to build on his good form in his second season, after sustaining an Achilles tendon injury that sidelined him for the best part of seven months. Vermaelen has also been plagued by injuries in his third season with the club.
Wenger started his Arsenal career with the formidable Adams-Keown combo for a long while, and the Toure-Campbell combo was equally as strong as its predecessors.
Wenger has struggled to find a suitable partner for Vermaelen, but the solution has come in the form of Per Mertesacker.
Following the loss of the Invincible defenders Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure, Wenger hasn't bought any defender of great quality, with the exception of Thomas Vermaelen and maybe William Gallas.
The likes of Phillippe Senderos, Mikael Silvestre and Sebastien Squillaci have been major disappointments.
Wenger relied fully on Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny throughout last season, but they still produced moments of uncertainty and complacency in some vital games.
Koscielny produced a horror moment in the Carling Cup Final last season, while Djourou was at fault for all three goals when Arsenal lost to Stoke City in May.
With their recent display against Manchester United in Old Trafford, Wenger felt that it was high time to bring a player that will put them on their toes.
Here's my take on the 10 key reasons why the new-look Vermaelen-Mertesacker combination will be a big hit for Arsenal.
Thomas Vermaelen is a defender that’s renowned for his aggressive style of play.
Irrespective of who the striker is, the Verminator takes on all comers, and is always looking to be dominant.
In a league that has physical strikers like Didier Drogba, Kenwyne Jones and Yakubu Aiyegbeni, amongst others, aggression is a key attribute for Arsenal’s defense.
The Arsenal faithful were very tired of watching set pieces go in, due to so many factors.
And height was one of the yardsticks.
There were games where a simple "over-the-top" through ball was more than enough to get in behind Arsenal’s defense, but Mertesacker has come to rectify that frailty.
Being a defender entails a lot, and a player has to be football smart to help him get through some tricky attackers.
Vermaelen and Mertesacker are highly intelligent players, and their combination will be a major plus for Arsenal in that department.
Mertesacker’s composure, on and off the ball, is second to none.
He keeps a very cool head in the toughest of situations.
Even if the attacker decides to turn into a raging bull and is heading towards Mertesacker, he’ll still be as calm and composed as ever.
If Arsenal’s defense is an orchestra, Vermaelen will be considered the conductor.
Vermaelen is a defender that can die for the cause, and play every game as if it's his last.
He’s never afraid to go in for that challenge, without being too mindful about the repercussions.
This was evidenced in the Champions League playoff tie against Udinese that resulted in an ankle injury.
Mertesacker’s superb ability to read the game makes him a difficult defender to come up against.
The fact that his legs are as long as Jack Beanstalk's doesn’t help the opposition, because he anticipates balls with consummate ease.
Vermaelen is a defender that’s never afraid to hit the turf with the aim of making a tackle.
It’s that no-nonsense nature that will be essential for a defense like Arsenal’s.
Vermaelen scored eight goals in his first season at Arsenal, and most of them were things of beauty.
He broke his duck on his debut with a solid header against Everton, and he also scored a peach of a goal against Wigan and another piledriver against Blackburn.
Mertesacker’s height is an important attribute for Arsenal, and he’ll also be a massive threat during set pieces.
Arteta and van Persie can even launch the ball into orbit while playing a corner kick.
And when the ball lands back to Earth, on fire like a meteorite, Mertesacker will still be the first player to nod the ball to the opponents’ net.
Per Mertesacker is a proven German international, with a wealth of experience.
So, it’s evident that he has been there and has done that.
Vermaelen is regarded as one of the influential players in Belgian football, and he’s currently the national team’s captain.
With the attributes listed above, the picture has been clearly painted regarding Vermaelen and Mertesacker.
Their combo will definitely be a big hit at Arsenal.