Thomas Vermaelen Signed by Arsenal: All You Need To Know about the Belgian

JamCorrespondent IJune 8, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 23:  Ajax defender Thomas Vermaelen scores the first Ajax goal during the UEFA Cup Group E match between Aston Villa and Ajax at Villa Park on October 23 2008 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

As you all know by now, Arsenal have reportedly agreed to a fee of around £11 million for the highly rated young Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.

Apparently, the player himself is convinced that he'll join Arsenal. This is what he told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad:

"Moving to Arsenal is the right path for me.

"It is a great sporting challenge and will also be financially better off. I think everything is going to be OK.

"In the coming days there will be more talks." 

Therefore, it's safe to say that Thomas Vermaelen will be an Arsenal player very soon. The only issue left to be resolved is the player's personal terms, but I'm sure this will be sorted out eventually.

I know most fans know little about this guy, but some gooners may remember him kicking the living daylights out of Robin Van Persie during the 2006-2007 Amsterdam Tournament (a friendly match).

I remember thinking, at the time, how we could do with a player like him in our defence. He looked like a player who genuinely enjoyed defending—a bit of a nutter who likes kicking people—so I'm quite pleased that we are linked with him.

In addition, I watched him again late last year in the UEFA Cup against Aston Villa where he scored this brilliant header.

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The way he attacked the ball reminded me of Nemanja Vidic. He played at left back in this game, and although he didn’t look like a natural full back, his distribution and passing were very good.


This is all you need to know about the Belgian:

He is a 23-year-old Belgian international (21 caps), moved to Ajax in 2004 from his home country club Germinal Beerschot.

His height, according to data from last Olymipics is 6'0". He could easily be an inch taller. My guess is that he is about 6'1". 

In the 2008-2009 season, Vermaelen played 40 games in all, scoring five times, received eight yellow cards, and was shown red only once.

In addition, he was made captain of the team last season by then coach Marco Van Basten after being impressed by the young Belgian's leadership qualities.

Also, he is fluent in English, which should help him settle down better in England.

Playing Style

He is quick, very good in the air, and strong in the tackle. Also, he is versatile—a feature Arsene Wenger values highly when signing a player, and can play either at centre back or left back positions. He is right-footed so he can easily play at right back.

Media Reaction 

From the beginning, most media reports linking Vermaelen and Arsenal were based on an article that appeared in Algemeen Dagblad.

This article claimed that Arsenal are in negotiation with Ajax for the player, but the gap between the Arsenal’s bid and what Ajax want is too big. Apparently, Ajax want more than the £10 million offered by Arsenal.

This news was picked up by the sport.co.uk, who jumped the gun and declared that Vermaelen has already "signed for Arsenal." This was highly unlikely since the player was in the Ajax squad playing in Japan at the time.

All this came just a few hours after Arsenal legend Tony Adams gave interviews to both Talksport and Setanta.com discussing in detail Wenger's transfer plans and the current state of the board (more later).

A Question of Size

Wenger has been monitoring Thomas  Vermaelen for a few years now, and it is said that he received positive reports about the Belgian international from several of his chief scouts.

One of them is former gunners captain Tony Adams, and according to him Arsenal should not go for Vermaelen at this moment in time.  Speaking to Setanta he said:

"I think Thomas is a very good player but i don't think he's ready for Arsenal.

"I don't think the punters at Arsenal would like another small one.

"I don't know whether he'll [Arsene Wenger] end up going for a bigger player. We'll see how much money we've got first."

It is clear that Adams does not question the player’s ability as a defender but questions whether he has the physicality to cope with the rough and tumble of the Premiership.

However, history shows you that you don’t have to be 6'6" to be a world class defender.

Players such as Ricardo Calvalho (Chelsea), Ivan Cordoba (I.Milan), and Fabio Canavaro are all 6'0" or under. They are all great defenders.

Senderos is 6'3" and looks like a man mountain, but lacks the basic defending skills and, considering his height, wins relatively few aerial battles.

Having said that, I would still take the word of Tony Adams over anybody since he knows what it takes to defend in the premier league.

What's Going on with Tony Adams

Staying with Adams, I’ve been a bit concerned about him recently. He was everywhere last week talking about Wenger, the board, and our transfer targets.

First, he claimed that he was in pole position for the Celtic job (on Talksport), then went on ranting that somebody on the Arsenal board does not like Wenger (as if there aren't enough board problems already), and finally, he goes on Setanta revealing Wenger's transfer ideas to the world.

He is creating more problems than Homer Simpson loose in a chocolate factory.

This is coming from one of Arsene Wenger's chief scouts. This is totally unprofessional. He should not be talking at all until the player in question is signed, sealed, and delivered. You can imagine Wenger going mental when he reads these reports.

Final Thought

First of all, both Arsenal needs good defenders, and Thomas Vermaelen definitely fits the bill. He is young, quick, can head the ball, and is fairly experienced. Add to this his undoubted leadership qualities and you have a player that could develop into one of the best defenders in the league.

However, you can’t discount the size issue raised by Tony Adams. Also, you have to look at the quality level of the Dutch league, which is quite poor at the moment. Ajax finished third last season.

I personally think that if Vermaelen is a good defender, and will improve the squad, then get him. I got a feeling that Arsene Wenger may have other plans for him, not just to use him as centre Back.

The lack of defensive cover at Arsenal was exposed all too often, especially when key players such as Gallas and Clichy were sidelined with injuries.

And at 6'1" he is not exactly small, is he?

I'm sure many gooners will hope that he is not the only defender recruitment this summer. Arsenal still needs a dominant centre back.

Arsenal fans, what do you think? Do you want Thomas Vermaelen at your club? Is he what Arsenal needs at the moment?

Furthermore, the Daily Mail reported today that, after the signing of Vermaelen, Arsene Wenger could sell Kolo Toure to Man City (£10 million) in a player cash deal that will see Micah Richards going the other way.

Do you think this is a good deal for Arsenal? Richards' form this season has been poor, but he is young with a bright future ahead of him.

Please leave a comment.

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