Now, now. I’m sure we’ve all thought it at one stage during last season; “Sell him, he’s not good enough any more”.
Am I right? If so, then I suggest you read on.
When we signed Vermaelen from Ajax in the Summer of 2009, even I was stunned at the fact we had signed such a defender for such a big price. Practically unknown and in fact hated by some Arsenal fans after that spat with Robin van Persie in the Champions League season that time (even though I’m sure we all love him for that).
In 2009, with the likes of Nasri, Fabregas and van Persie still in the squad, we were still a ‘title challenging team’ if you will. We had talent all over the pitch, we just didn’t have the legs or the bottle to go the full way. Vermaelen played a huge part of that season, he played all of the 2009/10 season, making 45 appearances and scoring an incredible EIGHT goals. He was voted Player of the Month twice and also put into the Barclays Team of the Year.
So what went wrong with ‘The Verminator’?
Lets face it, we all wanted him to be captain. He was solid, level headed and mature enough to be made captain, right?
Wrong. He was caught out too often, he made SIX defensive errors during his captain tenure at Arsenal, 50% of these mistakes leading to goals; the other 50% led to attempts on goal. That’s not good enough. His ability to hold his line at the back was notably criticized by Gary Neville after the 2-1 defeat at Spurs. He was right, he AND Mertesacker couldn’t hold the back line and simply didn’t communicate enough to be a solid defensive team. Errors like this is what makes us a run of the mill top four side.
Vermaelen’s downfall, poor communication for a captain.
That picture scares me, not only is Vermaelen trying to outpace Aaron Lennon, but his ability to control the back four is poor. Lennon would have been offside if Vermaelen stayed level headed and kept his line. So Captain Vermaelen was looking more like Captain Calamity.
The main downfall in my opinion, is his decision making. Every single time, every single game he made the wrong pass. It just looked like he tried to do everything on the pitch, and as we all know, it doesn’t work. Vermaelen would too often pick up the ball deep inside his own half, run past two really slow players and then find the stands with a very poor pass. That, or either just find Theo Walcott offside. A defenders job is to defend, an attackers job is to attack. Vermaelen could quite easily go up and score a crucial goal in a crucial game. However too often he was dispossessed of the ball and left the defence vulnerable at the back. The Verminator liked to play the Messi Role and unfortunately for Vermaelen, he’s not Messi… I could sit here for quite a long time typing up the mistakes that Vermaelen has made during his tenure at Arsenal, but then I’m sure you would get extremely bored and bugger off.
So, as we all know. Vermaelen was dropped after the Tottenham game, not only dropped, excluded and verbally beaten all over by critics and fans.
It worked, though.
Arsenal went on a formidable run, which was vital for us in order to secure a top-four place and save our blushes. Results were on the up, beating Bayern 2-0 at the Allianz being a personal highlight of mine. Not only that, but Wenger discovered a pairing that baffled strikers. That being the defensive duo of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. They have been unbelievable, and hats off to them, they’ve been incredible. Let’s not forget Koscielny has reportedly turned down Bayern Munich and Barcelona to stay in North London for many years to come.
We finished fourth, yay! So that’s it, right? Vermaelen was bad, so we sell him?
No, we don’t.
I’ll admit it, he’s been very bad at some points of the season and he’s cost us points in games we could have won.
We as fans have craved for players that are loyal to us, we’ve got some such as Wilshere, Koscielny, and Jenkinson, but what you’re also forgetting is that Vermaelen is one of those players too. Last year he was linked with Barcelona to replace the defensive metronome that is Carlos Puyol. How did Vermaelen respond? He signed a four-year deal to abolish those fears of losing ANOTHER player to the reins of Barcelona. Here is Vermaelen last year, showing his loyalty:
“I will stay at Arsenal forever. There will be no transfer for me. I love London. I’ve got a house there, I’m happy there and I don’t see any reason to ever leave the club.”
We need this.
Another thing us Arsenal fans seem to forget is that the guy is 27, which means he’s still got three or four years left to perform for us. At times he’s been solid, and can create chances from nothing. He scores goals and is definitely a fighter. Vermaelen wants to stay at Arsenal even though he was dropped, now that’s the sort of character that challenges for trophies. If you compare his character to other teams, you have foundations to build upon. That’s what Vermaelen is all about.
When Wenger dropped Szczesny before the Bayern game, we asked “Is he crazy?”. No, no he isn’t. The guy’s a genius, Szczesny became a lot more aware of his position at the club and has since performed admirably for us and I hope that commitment from him stays for a long time.
The same goes for Vermaelen, this drop will do him a favour. It will remind him not to take his position at centre-back for granted, when he comes back to the first team in August (which I hope he does), he’ll be the Vermaelen we bought four years ago.
So, what do we do now?
With pre-season on the horizon, it’s time to go to somewhere in the middle of Asia and rotate the squad. This time is perfect for Vermaelen to show what he’s got and also to remind Arsenal fans he will not give up.
I hope I made you change your mind, if not, I’ll sleep tonight.
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Cheers for reading. I’ll leave you with the best of Vermaelen courtesy of @Xeieshan_Gunner.