You do not find many clubs where you have a non-playing captain. Arsene likes to deemphasize the importance of a single individual in a team sport and hence refers to always having several leaders in his squad. However, in a country where things like captaincy are just as important as the Prime Minister’s position, the situation with the Arsenal captain currently requires addressing.
Arsenal is a club deep in tradition and one of its traditions is the match day note written by the Captain of the club and the Captain also picks the length of the jersey the team wears every game. You have to picture Thomas Vermaelen having to perform these functions dutifully knowing he was considered not good enough to be in the starting line-up for the game.
In an era where an opinion is just a tweet away (a la Morgan Schneiderlin) Thomas has conducted himself in the most dignified manner, never complaining and always supporting the club and the players. Seeing him lift the FA Cup trophy with Vice-captain Mikel Arteta did have more than a tinge of awkwardness to it.
After struggling for over 3 seasons we seemed to have found the defensive pairing that works best for us. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscienly have proven to be the bedrock of Arsenal’s success last season and combined, they put up a partnership reminiscent of the old Tony Adams and Martin Keown days. This combination would be hard for Thomas to break and it is only natural that he considers exiting the club especially with Manchester United and Barcelona rumoured to be seeking his services.
There are not many quality centre backs willing to play second choice to either of Mertesacker and Koscienly and losing Vermaelen without proving adequate cover for his role in the squad would be an epic disaster. Arsenal have been rumoured to be in touch with Nastatic from Manchesty City and if that deal scales through we can expect that Thomas would be on his way out.
Several postulations have been given as to why he wasn’t at the training camp at Austria and these opinions were aided by the fact that new signing Calum Chambers trained in a jersey with Thomas Vermealen’s number on it. However it has been established that he picked knock and was being asked to stay back at London to recover. However, according to daily mail, he is set for exit talks with Wenger this week. If true, he will have to be replaced and urgently.
Vermaelen’s partnership with either of Arsenal’s current defenders always seem to leave Arsenal exposed as both defenders are more inclined to tackling the ball early on which leaves rooms for fast attackers to use the space behind them to hurt the team. Mertesacker brings calmness and intelligence to defending and is a sure starter in the team with partner Koscienly.
Thomas would not be short of options should the club be willing to cash in on him before his contract expires and stand a chance of losing him on a free transfer. Any top side should have 4 quality centre backs and Arsenal currently has 3. Isaac Hayden and Nacho Monreal who have played in that position during preseason cannot be seen as long term replacements.
Wenger needs to make a decision fast as to what he intends to do with the centre back position especially as Mertersacker is billed to arrive late for the season due to the forays of Germany at the World Cup and who knows what condition he is going to return in.