The Curse of the Captaincy – Thanks TV5 but time to go quietly.

2009/10 Did goals blind us all?
2009/10 Did goals blind us all?

Well this is a great day for my site as I have finally secured a guest slot from Jane Cavendish. She is one of the best tactical writers on The Arsenal and I for one wish she would write more often but when she does on her own blog it is always a bonus. You can find her stuff at ‘Horses in the Avenell Road‘ also the most originally named Arsenal blog. You can also follow her on twitter @jcav90 and I urge you to do so. 

You will have surmised the subject from the title and Jane’s arguments and analysis are very powerful…..

Our manager is loyal to a fault, often standing by players when other managers would already have cut their losses. When, last season, Diaby made a grand total of no starts at all in the league, even the most cynical of Wenger-watchers might have been a tad surprised at the umpteenth reiteration of the “Diaby is like a new signing” mantra at the beginning of this campaign. Having made the fateful decision to anoint Thomas Vermaelen as our club captain, it was no surprise at all when Chelsea came visiting last September that Wenger would drop the excellent Mertersacker for the fit-again but error-prone Belgian because that’s the way Wenger works. He makes his decision, and then backs his judgement by showing loyalty to his protégés. The louder everyone else protests, the firmer he is in his conviction. Now, this is a good philosophy in principle. You have to empower your players; to give them confidence that if they make a mistake it won’t have catastrophic consequences on their career. By accepting their occasional errors you are minimising their psychological propensity to make them in the first place by letting them play without fear. It’s not possible to strike this balance absolutely perfectly but I’d say in general there are more ticks in the positive column than the negative in Wenger’s trusting, long-term approach. Ramsey is the latest example of a player who’s had to fight his way into form, silencing the boo-boys to show what we’ve all suspected for a while, that he’s a proper player. If we’ve also had to suffer a couple of seasons of Gervinho, well, you can’t win them all. He might have gone on to “do a Pires”, he had the record in France and the skill on the ball to have been worth persevering with, alas, and it’s now a forlorn hope.

Still waiting for Gervinho to "do a Pires!"
Still waiting for Gervinho to “do a Pires!”

However, this strategy only works up to a point. There comes a time when a player is in such a rut of form with confidence on the floor that not only will the team benefit from his temporary absence but it will also come as a relief to the player himself.  The common perception is that this is exactly what’s happened to Vermaelen – a good player going through a tough time. Sadly, I think the truth is more complicated and ominous. Let me draw your attention to an article by the excellent Michael Cox written during the 2009/2010 season, his first in England; evidence that he was making exactly the same sort of terrible positional errors right from the outset that have cost us so dearly this season. For example, watch again Bale’s first goal at the Lane earlier this season and keep your eyes on Vermaelen’s positioning. Even though I have seen this sequence more times than is good for my mental well being, I can’t help but shout at my screen each time I watch it. “Hold your ground. Watch his run. What are you doing? WHERE ARE YOU GOING?? Oh Sh*t!” So why, if his game was always so full of mistakes, did we think Vermaelen was such a good defender when he first arrived at the club? I believe there are three separate reasons. The first is that he scored a lot of goals, 13 in his first season, and that always grabs headlines and distracts from how one performs one’s day-job. Second, he was and is a good header of the ball. Remember that we’d been having all sorts of problems with aerial balls into our box in the previous season. We were at the time a team of hobbits and our centre-back pairing of Gallas and Kolo, while both good players, couldn’t head their way out of a paper bag. We all gave thanks at the time that Vermaelen had arrived and, at a stroke, solved our biggest defensive weakness without noticing the new ones that he’d brought with him.

Great in the air and his goals - masked weaknesses
Great in the air and his goals – masked weaknesses

The third reason was because he was playing alongside William Gallas. One of the great axioms of football is that you should never judge a centre-back in isolation but you judge them as partnerships. Gallas was the ideal partner for Vermaelen because they had complementary instincts and, although we have mostly forgotten it now owing to the Frenchman’s ability to start an argument in an empty broom-cupboard, he was a bloody good player. Quick, intelligent and aggressive Gallas’s first instinct was always on to the back foot, rather than to attack the ball. Wenger always likes to play a centre-back partnership with a left-foot/right-foot combination but I always think that it’s more important to think in terms of a front-foot/back-foot partnership instead. Ideally, you want a commanding, physical defender who can front up the opposition striker, win the ball in the air or bully the player on the ground. Then, to complement this, you need a mobile defender who can sweep up behind his partner when he’s committed himself; someone who’s first instinct is back-and-round, rather than up-and-at-em. A Sol always needs his Kolo behind him.

Front foot/Back foot partnership that worked?
Front foot/Back foot partnership that worked?

Gallas was a fine back-foot defender, probably one of the best in the league over the last ten years, and being the perfect foil for Vermaelen, papered over many of the cracks in our back line. When the Belgian over-committed again and again, finding himself in midfield no-man’s land, more often than not Gallas had the positional sense and the raw pace to nip the problem in the bud. Per Mertersacker is obviously a completely different type of defender who is himself a not-particularly mobile front-foot centre-back. It should not therefore be a surprise to anyone that the partnership has not worked, nor was it ever likely to. Ah, I hear you say, but surely Koscielny is a younger version of Gallas, a very quick defender who can sniff danger and whose first instinct is back and round. Should they not also be a good complimentary partnership? In theory, yes, but practice has proved otherwise and I suspect the answer lies in the fact that Koscielny lacks Gallas’s organisational abilities and can’t yet read the game as quickly as the Frenchman was able to in his prime. Communication also has a lot to do with it and neither Vermaelen nor Koscielny are talkers on the field. When both of your centre-backs are as mute as each other, it’s always a recipe for disaster.

Koz and TV5 not great communicators
Koz and TV5 not great communicators

Vermaelen’s unpredictability has a very unsettling effect on everyone around him. If you’re a fullback playing next to him, covering round while the opposition attack up the opposite flank, you need to know what your centre-backs are going to do in any given situation. If you have no idea whether he’s going to hold his line or suddenly go off-piste it makes it very hard to second-guess where you need to be yourself. We have seen this with Monreal when he’s come into the side; it’s hard enough to have to adjust to the pace of the Premier League without having to factor in slotting into a Keystone Cops back-four. He’s obviously a very talented player but his defending at times has been all over the place. Remember the piece that Gary Neville highlighted on his Monday show a couple of months ago? The one where Monreal was trying to body check the striker instead of playing him offside? That was a clear case of Monreal’s frustration at his captain’s positional discipline leaving him high and dry, never knowing when he should step up or when the four of them should try to hold the offside line. While we’re on the subject of left-backs, I will say one thing of Vermaelen’s abilities as a centre-back – they’re better than his abilities as a left-back. Against Fulham at home he managed to pull off the seemingly impossible trick if simultaneously offering no threat going forward (to the extent that he did not make a single forward pass) whilst constantly being exposed with the ball played behind him into the channel. Wenger is not a stupid man and what he’s forgotten about football tactics would eclipse what you or I have ever known or will ever know. Having painted himself into a corner, he could see the wreckage of our season unfolding and he understood why. Being by nature a conservative man, he waited until that last possible moment before he moved to rectify it, making the change most humble fans had recognised the necessity for months, in some cases a year, beforehand. Better late than never, though, and what a change it was. On paper, the partnership of Mertersacker and Koscielny was potentially the best this club has had since the Invincibles but, as we have seen, potential partnerships don’t always deliver and you have to prick yourself on its sharp edge before you can truly know how effective it is. Of course they’d played together a couple of times earlier in the season but to be told that you’re the first choice partnership is an entirely different thing.

Koscielny and Mertesacker - It just works
Koscielny and Mertesacker – It just works

They delivered everything we’d hoped for and more, right from their first game together in Munich of all places, the hardest place in Europe to visit and to come away with a clean sheet. If that was a triumph of textbook defending, it was but a first step in an impressive display of consistency throughout the rest of the season. In the eleven remaining games of the season, Arsenal conceded only three goals from open play. Yes, three, in eleven games. That’s league-winning form and way better than anyone else could manage during the title run-in. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is now our first choice selection in defence, that it is one of the best (if not THE best) in the league and barring injury will remain so for the duration of next season.  I would go so far as to say that our chances of competing for the league next season depend as much on the fitness of Mertersacker and Koscielny as on the signing of any £50m striker. So where does that leave our club captain? I’ve seen the majority of fans on twitter say that they’re happy to keep Vermaelen as third choice but I disagree for two reasons. First, you won’t be surprised to hear, I simply don’t rate his defensive abilities and that if he has to step in because of injury, we will simply start leaking goals again. Also, I don’t think that having a deposed captain moping around on the bench can be good for anyone’s morale. Wenger’s choice of captains over the last few seasons hasn’t exactly worked out well for the club; neither Fabregas nor van Persie were natural on-field leaders and the common perception is they were offered the position as an extra inducement to stay loyal to the club – which worked out well. Vermaelen is a slightly different case although he turned out to be the least natural captain of them all. But the curse of the captaincy has struck again and I contend that it would be best for all if we parted ways.

The Curse of the Captain - Time to follow your pal out the door?
The Curse of the Captain – Time to follow your pal out the door?

I like the new, ruthless Wenger, the man who’s rediscovered his stick after a decade of mollycoddling his young fledglings by feeding them a field full of carrots. But don’t lose your conviction halfway through Arsene. Have the courage of your convictions; thank Vermaelen for his loyal service and send him on his way.

Thanks Jane. A strong, well thought our and convincing argument. Time for TV5 to be asked to leave? Thoughts?

Like what you read? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66

 

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78 comments

  1. Hmm.

    I agree with you on much of what you’re saying and you’ve covered pretty much everything, but I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion.

    We know what he;s doing wrong, Wenger knows what he;s doing wrong, and I suspect Vermaelen knows what he’s doing wrong; whilst faith can be taken too far, as you point out, I think that getting rid of him would still be a mist

    1. ake.

      Like absentmindedly pressing enter whilst typing…

      This team is growing together, and part of that IS covering for the rest of the team when they make errors, I’m sure our midfield and defence are aware of Mertesackers lack of pace and adapt accordingly so if Vermaelen can cut out some of the more obvious ones we’d be alright, though he’s going to stay 3rd choice until they disappear completely, given how good Mertscielny works.

      Ultimately, ripping out a 3rd choice defender and captain in a summer where we need to improve, rather than revitalise a squad, would create more problems than it solved.

      1. I think it depends on whether you think the mistakes he keeps making are going to be easily rectifiable or not. When someone keeps making the same systematic positional errors, I think it’s far harder to cut them out of the game than, say, making the odd mistimed tackle. Vermaelen has a long history of panicking under pressure and being attracted to the ball as his default setting. I think it would be a triumph of hope over experience to expect him to change such a fundemental habit at his age.

      2. I’d say they are rectifiable, the unfortunate thing being that they’re a mental thing rather than anything else, when you know you’re being aggressive you can deal with it as long as you’re ‘on the ball’ with the problem being Vermaelen is trying a little too hard for that.

        I guess all that hinges on me thinking that those rash tackles are a bigger part than his occasionally dodgy positioning, maybe it exacerbates it a little. He’s had enough good performances for me to say that he’s not clueless about defending and certainly seems good enough for backup, especially with another CB brought in.

      3. I think that’s where we differ. Personally I think his lack of fundamental positional understanding is the root of the problem and manifests itself at moments of greatest pressure. In other words, he panics and reverts to his default instinctive behaviour which is always to lunge forward into midfeld and press the ball, whether it’s a good idea or not.

        I’m not suggesting for a moment that he hasn’t had good games and defended well for 90 mins, but in my opinion, that’s not how a defender should be judged. A defender needs to be consistent above all, to be constantly putting in 8/10 performances week in week out. A striker can afford to have one brilliant game where he wins it for you followed by a bit of a stinker where he disappears, but that would be a disaster for any defender, especially a centre-back.

  2. Or find a partner to compliment vermaelen or better still for vermaelen convert him into a no nonsense DM. He has all the attributes and he has played the role many times before. But listen with potential 60+ matches to play next season there is plenty of room for 4 top centre backs.

    1. But why should we be building our defence around Vermaelen when we already have the best partnership in the league in Per and Kos? Since Vermaelen has amply demonstrated that he can’t play with either, surely we would be better off having a back-up Centre Back who can slot in with either?

    1. I’d be interested to hear your reasons for thinking that Per isn’t a front foot defender.

    2. Of course he is!

      Per always uses his reading of the game to try and make interceptions.
      If that fails Kos cleans up.

      That is a front foot defender.
      You don’t have to clatter into attackers all the time to be a front foot defender!

  3. It’s not time for tv5 to go! He’s a quality defender and if we allow him to leave he’ll be able to go to barca, munich or man u coz they all know how good he is! Sure he’s had a bad reason but he still has it.

    1. I think it depends what you mean by “quality defender”. Yes, he does certain things well but I don’t think that counts for much if he does other things badly. You need your defenders to be all rounders that are consistent above all else, as opposed to a striker who only needs to be good at one or two things.

  4. What a detailed analysis with some well crafted arguments that I agree with entirely. If Barcelona or any other club are interested, Arsenal should thank Mr Vermaelen for his service and move him on.

  5. I spent the majority of last season wanting TV5 dropped & fully expecting him to depart this summer. Felt he was far too error prone & positionally naive, frustratingly costing us goals & points. Your post is spot on in highlighting his faults. And he definitely has forgotten how to play left back where, I believe, he used to play in his early days at Ajax.

    However, since his recent quotes (if true) on how he is ready & willing to work hard & fight for his place I’ve had a slight change of heart. Should he be happy with losing captaincy & settling for a role as a back up centre half, we could do a lot worse than Vermaelen on the bench, saving us the search for back up in the process.

    Ultimately, unless someone bids good money for him & he can be suitably replaced, I’m leaning towards keeping hold of him now. Hopefully he is not too old to learn how to cut out the needless mistakes & still be a valuable squad member.

    Who knows? Not me! UTA

    1. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it, Steve? After years of disloyal toads quitting the club after we’ve invested years in their development, naturally when Vermaelen makes all the right noises about being committed to the cause and wanting to stay to fight for his place we feel sympathetic towards him. But putting sentiment aside and trying to analyse the situation as dispassionately as we can, we have to ask – will Arsenal Football Club be in a stronger position next year with Vermaelen as third choice centre-back or someone else who can form an effective partnership with either or both of Per and Kox?

      1. If the move for Ashley Williams is to be believed Steve and Jane suggests the latter

    2. You’re right; he did get his start at Ajax at left-back but he never was a particularly good one even by Eredivisie standards, offering too little going forward as Jane rightly points out. And since full-backs in Holland are judged almost solely on their attacking qualities (which is why we so often play converted midfielders like van Bronckhorst there), he was moved to the centre.

  6. A lot of writing to slab a good player off people like you have ruins many an Arsenal player by undermining their confidence hope these players can rise above you obvious lack of understanding and pure vindictiveness otherwise they will be lost to arsenal much like the now mega bucks Russian do arsenal a favour write about spurs

    1. I suggest you read again. All that comes through is a good tactical understanding of the game and a love for our club. It is a balanced well thought out piece or it would not be on my site as I simply would not entertain it. There is not a trace of vindictiveness. Dave

    2. I’m sorry you think this is a vindictive piece, I can assure you it was nothing of the sort. It’s one thing to have an opinion on the tactical balance of our squad but quite another not to support the players in the stadium. For all my disappointment in Vermaelen’s effectiveness, I can assure you that, as a season ticket holder, I’ve never once not given him my full support in the stadium. Always support the Arsenal and never boo one of your own. But that doesn’t mean you also has to leave your brain behind when you discuss your opinions after the game.

      1. I agree with Dave – and you Jane. A superb tactical understanding shows through, maybe to the embarrassment of many men, and I certainly saw no lack of backing for the club only the player. Too many slate a player off AND on the pitch whereas that shouldn’t only happen in discussions away from the ground. Your piece was excellent Jane and I wouldn’t argue with it.

  7. An excellent piece and some great points, with most of which i agree. TV is a fundamentally flawed defender and there’s no denying Arsenal are a sturdier unit since Koscielny and Mertesacker took the reigns.

    However, on the matter of him leaving, i think it comes down to what is practical. If he were to leave i can’t see him fetching a worthy fee to justify losing an experienced defender and having to bring in another on top of the CB we already need. That would be disruptive and it’s been said that we could do much worse than TV on the bench. We must be pragmatic and focus on our somewhat destitute forward line

    1. You have to factor in the wages, too, Trent. Vermaelen will be one of the higher earners in the squad and that’s a lot of money to be shelling out every week for a reserve. He’s in the middle of a long-term contract so selling now would give us the best chance of recouping some of our money at least. Then it comes down to making value judgements about how much we need to spend to replace him with someone better. Personally, whilst I think he could do a job if he stayed, I don’t have much confidence that he can change his game that much that he won’t cost us at vital moments next season if called upon. On that basis, I believe the club would get good value out of spending decent money on a replacement.

  8. I would be very happy if you could answer some/all of my questions. If Per is a front foot defender and Kos is a back foot defender. What type of defender will have a good partnership with both of them? Also, what type of defender do you think Swansea’s Williams is? I would appreciate it a lot! Great article by the way!!

    1. I think the answer, Phil, is it’s quite rare to find a single defender who can do both, which is why you need four top class defenders – two for each position. Also, if you’re not the regular starter, you have to have the ability to come into the side and hit the ground running. Not all defenders can do that, Djourou was a good example of a front-foot centre-back who looked like he could be decent, but he always needed a run of games to find any sort of form; hence his failure at Arsenal where he was always in and out of the side for a game or two at a time and his consequent catalogue of errors.

  9. A really good piece Jane, spot on with the majority of it.
    I think if they’re bringing another CB in then he’d have to settle for 4th spot or possibly a utility role whereby he could cover both CB and DM (it’s a possible, er maybe?) but I agree with you – probably best to recoup what losses we can and be very careful about who else we bring in to replace him, which would have to be two CB’s of course.

  10. Great piece Jane.

    I was very impressed with your insight on the defensive situation at the club but I have a few comments.

    We don’t need any soothsayer to get us that Merte-cielny is our best defensive pairing but Vermaelen needs to stick around and fight for his place, rather than your suggestions for the club to send him packing.

    Despite stating all his flaws (which I honestly agree with), Vermaelen is. Very good defender that can come in and put up a good shift if either injury or suspension takes its toll on either Kos or PM4.

    When the BFG got a red card against WBA, the Verm came in and put up a good shift against Norwich without any glaring errors, which ultimately showed that Arsenal can count on him when the need arises.

    Notwithstanding, it was a truly enjoyable read and I must commend you for that.

    Enigma

  11. Unlike some above, I wouldn’t call this piece “vindictive” at all, quite the opposite, a very well written piece.

    I’ve lived in the lowlands for a good twenty plus years, when, a few years ago, I read that Arsenal were on the verge of signing a Belgian CB from Ajax I was quite excited about the prospect of Vertonghen joining us. When I heard it was Vermaelen I was pretty surprised. I’d never really rated him while he was in the Ere Divisie and thought Arsene had picked the wrong man.

    His first season at Arsenal won him many fans and the nick name The Verminater, his stealy glare wowed us and his goal tally was amazing for a CB, Arsene had obviously seen something I hadn’t. I still didn’t think he was a great defender, but I got shot down everytime I even dared to mention such a thing.

    Unfortunatly over the last few seasons the gaps in his game have cost us and his shortcomings have been brought more to the fore as you have excelently pointed out above, the big question is, what to do now?

    If reports are to believed (I hardly believe anything I read in Silly Season) he wants to stay and fight for his place, which is commendable and an attitude that is sorely missing from far too many players in today’s game. However if we bring in someone new then that will be it for Tommy V. Lest we forget that next year is a WC year and Belgium are well in the running to book their place in Rio and his chances of making the squad will diminish if he’s only a bit player.

    I, for one, would be sad to see him go. he could never be accused of not giving his all for the shirt and he seems to have a real love for the club, but if he must go then I wish him all the best for the future.

      1. Thanks gents, but no, I don’t do twitter, not my thing.

        I’m a regular @ goonerholic.com, there was a link to this piece posted in the comments by a fellow regular, so I decided to check it out. Glad I did, good stuff and I’ll be sure to pop in more often in the future.

        Cheers.

        H2H.

  12. I will disagree slightly with the authors opinion regarding to Vermaelens worth as a back up. We realy could do a lot worse, especialy if he shows the gumption and spirit to work his way back in to contention, although I will agree it will be a hard slog ahead.

    If we could get a decent return on him and find another back up of superior quality, then ok, let him go, but as we have learned, to our detriment in the past, that is easier said then done. Remember Squillaci? On paper, he looked like just what the doctor ordered, the right age, good experience etc, etc. Alas football’s not played on paper and on the pitch he looked like the doctor that orded him must of been Dr Frankenstein. Caution pays!!

    For those above who think he’d make a good DM, I’d offer the same caution. Yes it seems like he could make the transistion, he’s big, not scared of a tackle, can head the ball, likes to make a run and has quite a shot on him (why do we want him to go now? 😉 ) but, and it’s a big arse but, his failings as a defender would also be the reason he may struggle in that position too.

    To play the DM role requires an increadable amount of tactical awareness and, most importantly, positional discipline, and that, as pointed out by Miss Cavendish, is exactly where he falls short. His tendency to burst forward come hell or high water would leave us exposed at the back and that’s not’s going to do any of us any good. Look at this years team and see how Arteta has curbed his natural forward thinking instincts to do the job of DM, him coupled with the ever improving Ramsey, and not just the Mertecielny axis, was the reason why we only conceded three goals from open play in our run in, at the end of the season, we defended as a unit, as a team and that positional discipline made all the difference.

    Do you think TV has the nous to fulfil that role?

    As far as I’m concerned the jury is stillb out..

    1. Yes, it’s a good point as to whether it’s better to stick or twist. I understand the argument that “better the devil you know” but personally, I think it would be a mistake to go for the safe option and do nothing. Of course, getting anyone in will be a gamble, but that can be minimised to a great degree by attracting a player with a solid record in the Premier League like a WIlliams or a Jagielka.

      I echo your thoughts completely about Vermaelen’s suitability at DM, a position now we’re quite well covered in with Arteta, Ramsey and even Coquelin. I would also point out that Vermaelen’s distribution at LB earlier in the season was awful. One of the things Arteta does so seamlessly that we don’t even notice him doing it, is to make himself available to receive the ball from the centre backs or the full backs, turn and recycle the ball simply, but usually forward. Vermaelen hasn’t showed any evidence that he could be as effective in that role.

    2. Totally agree. After hearing everyone complain for years about how Alex Song did not have the right instincts to be a “proper” DM, I struggle to see how Vermaelen would be any better, since his positioning is highly questionable and he is not as good a passer as either Song or Arteta.

  13. I don’t feel this was a vindictive piece either. I agree with Jane, we can’t let our hearts rule our heads. If Ashley Williams comes in. I cannot see Thomas staying, even if he does want to stay. If we want to move forward we have to have quality on the pitch & on the bench.

  14. Very enlightening piece, Jane. Four thumbs up!

    While I can see that it would be the more prudent action to sell him, I keep asking myself: how do I (we) know that the next guy won’t be as bad or even worse in general? I mean, I know that’s why we have scouts and the Wenger sense, but we have acquired the services of many a player in the last 5 years or so where they were [potentially] magnificent with their previous club but have either waned off or never took off in the first place. Not sure whether it’s a Wenger, an AFC, an EPL, a fame thing or something else entirely – could even be a fan thing, where we’re to blame for setting such unrealisticly high expectations on players. Even if the news about Williams is true, I still have reservations about him getting contaminated with the Arsenal curse that has haunted (or still is haunting) the likes of Chamakh, Arshavin, Gervinho, etc.

    Something else to consider: IF Wenger strips him of the captaincy – something I seriously doubt his conservative nature would allow him to do unless he gets on his bike – we would have had four different captains in just as many years (right?). Is that something Wenger (or indeed we the fans) would want, especially with our recent, newly-found stability in the team in general? I can just imagine how the press headlines would read and how this concept would potentially take the players back mentally to square 0 again (or even minus, depending on which type of fan you’re talking to).

    If I was Wenger and I had to weigh all of these aspects in my decision, I would need to keep him, at least until January ’14 and make my decision after I see how he reacts to all this. Now, if I was in Wenger’s shoes and I hadn’t already brought in a much better #1 CB at the start of the 12/13 season while giving the captaincy to Arteta in the first place, it seems to me the only logical and sensible thing to do now is to hold on to him only for the sake of continued stability but make him vice-captain, while making sure he’s aware that he’s 3rd of 4th in the picking order, depending on who I bring in this summer. He’s a useful player that should get better in the next 2 or 3 years and I think he has a high probability of fixing his errors now that he’s aware that his selection (or even his captaincy) is not guaranteed by any means. I believe he’s the type of player that will work hard to do his utmost to fix what he can.

    Everything is “fix-able”, Jane, if you’re given the right guidance and tools needed. I don’t believe in lost causes.

    1. Of course there are no guarantees, Bolbol, that any replacement would do a better job. But Wenger has to make a judgement and has to extrapolate future performance based on past performance. My two main points in this blog are that Vermaelen hasn’t been able to form an effective partnership with either of our first-choices and that he keeps making the same positional errors over and over again. Expecting a different outcome in the future would seem to me, in Einstein’s words, to smack of madness.

      1. It would be madness only if the situation is not addressed or, better yet, rectified. It wouldn’t be madness if the coaches try to work with him and he recognizes the problem and attempts to make it better.

        I’m not defending his defensive abilities/capabilities. I was never sold 100% on him from the get go as a defender. Always seemed to buckle under pressure, as u pointed out in ur piece, Jane. I’m merely saying that it might not be the best thing for the team, for the reasons I mentioned.

  15. Another excellent article on this site. In my humble opinion, the central defensive partnership I feel happened by complete accident. the Boss wasn’t getting games early season and the Verminator suddenly looked like Titus Bramble. I still have some faith in TV and feel he is good enough to get better and made more tactically aware. I just feel Kos & Per read the game better but we often leave ourselves exposed to much for my liking. I think the defending, although improved, should be more of a team effort and more disciplined. This will also negate the need for a specialist DM where TV could play. I don’t agree that just because he is found wanting in defence, he would not make a good DM. who would we get as a backup? Injuries, suspensions. New defender to step in? Would we trust him? Williams seems to be muted. We missed out on the perfect back up and can play in many positions when we didn’t sign the other Belgium who went to that mob down the road… Give him another year under Bould and see what happens,,,,

    1. He’s already 27, Huddas. It’s possible that he can completely alter his game at his age, but I would suggest it’s a high-risk strategy to assume that he’ll be able to, considering that his errors stem from a fundamental ability to read the game.

  16. Great blog! Verm. Was very good early on but his rash play seems to have coincided with our left back problems,Gibs,Santos etc.. What do you think?

  17. Good article.
    Not sure if it is a good idea to get rid Vermalen .
    He had a bad season yes.Note : this guy I don’t remember had a positional flaws at his early season. Sure he had suffered injuries. But what it has to do with positional errors.
    I blame the urgency that is added to captaincy as a factor.
    I support Vermalen and I am sure that he will come better.
    The idea to sell him is easy .How do you replace ?
    I felt the article kind of half baked at the end.

    1. I think the point of my blog, Alex, was to suggest that he hasn’t just had one bad season and the errors we’ve seen this year have always been endemic in his game.

  18. a very well written piece. however like few others before me, i do think as a third choice CB we could do a whole lot worse than tv5. One thing we have to take in account is that in the last defensive run in we generally played a much deeper backline than before. playing highline probably gave incentive vermaelen’s charging up even more. playing with a more back seated defense line and with the rest of the team trying to hold up their defensive shape instead of pressing too high(unlike in earlier parts of the season), vermaelen’s shortcomings might affect his game to a much lesser degree.

    1. You make a good point that abandoning our high line will make it easier for Vermaelen, but my personal opinion is that if you just don’t possess a good enough sat-nav, then you will continue to make the same positional errors. The Bale goal which I referred to in the blog, for example, wasn’t scored while we were trying to hold a very high line. Vermaelen’s starting position is relatively deep before he makes the fatal decision to launch himself into midfield.

    1. I compliment you on spotting that, Darren and apologise for the spelling error which was entirely my own fault.

  19. Dear Ms Cavendish,

    I congratulate you on a well written, and well thought out piece.
    Kudos.

    BUT. I’m sure you imagined a ‘but’ here 🙂 . Well you got lots up here.
    Here’s another one. I disagree on many fronts.
    Here’s a summary:

    1. The Ajax captain: Well given or not Huntelaar, We know Ajax is a respectable club for the world to reckon and this guy we talk of TV5 came to us as a captain of Ajax. Big Deal I think. I don’t care what Cox says about his positioning (as I will illustrate later) we’ve got a guy who cares about that club. and such guys are not available dime-a-dozen. The commitment means a big deal. One can see it in his eyes and his body language. Despite the outcome, I have never seen TV5 shying away from a tackle or a chance to go forward.

    2. Positioning: Well again there are multiple things to argue here, but lets just split it into his:
    a. Attacking: I think as a captain and as an important /senior member of the squad he takes upon himself to start attacks from the back. I am all for it. Be it the 5-a-side game or the classic 11-a-side game. When you know the midfield and attack are lacking a body, there is absolutely no harm in a defender stepping up. As you must have seen with Hummels recently or with Ramos/Cahill/Puyol/Luiz and many more. What we are really trying to hide here is the weakness in midfield and attack. No shame in saying that we are far from complete or perfect. I love the man for his trying. He wants to win. There’s talent + there’s desire. what more do you want in football?

    b. Defending: Yes I agree he is not perfect and has not been infallible. He has made some mistakes and that have cost us points, BUT when he was in charge, who were the full backs? Big question there! how can one even rate him with a tremendous liability like Santos? Also the period that you mention with Per+Kos (god bless) almost as good as invincibles, there is a small detail we are missing to capture there. Who was the cover? MA8 yes! Plus AARON RAMSEY. Making sure almost no attacks reach the defense. The effect of AR can just not be discounted in this case. This is the only time he was employed as MA8’s full time partner. He worked his socks off + the FBs were there to see out any real pressure for CBs. This story is lopsided if you don’t include that detail for me,

    3. Practicality: Of course we don’t have a sugar daddy. We have to be pragmatic and realistic. And if TV5 must leave (utopia) I would like to see SS, AA23, NB52, Chamakh, Park, Denilson, Coquelin, Santos, Diaby, Frimpong and Gervinho sold before it comes to TV5. Isn’t that fair you think?

    4. Realism: We have afforded Gervinho 2+ years, and even more to Ramsey (who is still far from being a complete MF or of AFC calibre). Why do you think its unfair for TV5 to get a proper chance with proper FBs and proper cover.

    We are not a splurging club. We like to believe in good. We like to believe in talent+effort. We can’t afford talk of TV5 being sold off and then another cheap (trust me) CB to be a cover for the ‘best pairing’..

    In conclusion I would like to say I am offended at the suggestion to part with a quality player who is committed to the cause while we are still paying for deadwood.

    First things first!

    1. i must say your reasoning behind tv5 coming up to help in midfield comes cross more like an excuse. hummels, or vertonghen charges up when his side has the ball, what’s vermaelen doing running up when opponent has it? makes no sense to me. also no matter how much santos sucks, he had little to do with the balls in the centre of the park, in which cases vermaelen made his typical errors.

      however i do think you have point when you pointed at ramsey’s role. its not that tv5 had ot have the chance to play with him. in fact they played quite a few matches together, and even in them varmaelen made mistakes and was caught out of position. Difference is that towards the arsenal changed their overall ‘off the ball’ and prioritized holding defensive shape over pressing(like the first few matches of the season), which certainly provided the centre backs with a better cover, something that vermaelen was not provided withwith.

      while i agree whole heartedly with u that we should keep tv5, tactics wise very little can be faulted with this article.

      1. I agree he has been caught wrong footed far too many times. While some of it is definitely a positional mistake, I just can’t discount him wanting to do too much, because the players around him could not. More than his desire to attack, it looks more the case of him being stretched out of his post. And I can’t blame him entirely for it.

        You are right, the defensive shape was much more prioritised in the second half much like the first 3 games. Bould effect or not, but the change definitely helped us nick those 1 Nils.

    2. Hi Yoii, just to answer a couple of your points:

      I appreciate that Vermaelen is committed to the club, but as I alluded to above, sadly this can’t be a sufficient criterion for keeping him on or else by the same argument, Wenger should sign me as number 10.

      I don’t care how good a defender is going forward if he can’t do his day-job and does the bread-and-butter defending with consistency and assurance.

      You make a good point about the contribution of Arteta and Ramsey, however I would respond by pointing out that Arteta has played while Vermaelen was letting in soft goals and Diaby also screened the defence pretty well at the beginning of the season but it didn’t prevent Vermaelen making individual errors.

      The fact that we have other poor players who are going to be offloaded this summer shouldn’t influence Wenger’s decision to retain or offload Vermaelen. Each case is independent of each other.

      You’re perfectly entitled to your opinion that Vermaelen should stay as captain, there are many people who agree with you. I, however, am of the opposite opinion and I have tried to explain my reasons above.

      1. Thank you for replying.

        There is clearly no point of TV5 staying as captain now, when he is not getting game time. It should be a player like MA8 who can lead by example in the middle and starts almost all games. The captaincy candidature list might be different come Aug 31.

        Not as a captain, but I would like to keep him and be given another chance. But I must concede to Ras Dam who brilliantly points out that its a more viable option to sell 2nd choice players than 3rd choice. I agree with the practicality of it, but on the other hand is the uncertainty of who we get in. I am not a 100% sure that we will definitely get a 10mn+ defender with the money we get. So part of me wants to hold on to what we have. A bit cowardly I admit.

        But I completely agree with this line you wrote “I don’t think that having deposed captain moping around on the bench can be good for anyone’s morale”. If AW can’t manage his morale then before AW asking, I guess TV5 might start packing himself.

    3. 1. Vermaelen captained a poor Ajax side and they failed to win the league in all four of the seasons that he was a regular in the team. Don’t think wearing the armband for them was something to brag about.

      I hate all the talk of a player/manager loving the club and being determined to do well for the shirt. It’s all a load of emotive nonsense used to endear the individual to us fans. I go to work, I do a good job and it’s got fuck all to do with me loving my employers. How anyone at the club feels is irrelevant to me. All I care about is how they go about doing the job they’ve been tasked with and how well they do it.

      2. a) no ones complained about his attacking. It’s his forays forward when he should be holding the line that’s been highlighted.

      b) Yes, he hasn’t played with the defensive shield of Arteta and Ramsey which greatly reduces the threat posed on our goal. What we do know is that Koscielny and Mertesacker’s partnership has been undefeated in the league since some time in the season before last. It’s not been a partnership that’s thrived due to the defensive shield.

      Chances are we won’t be starting Arteta and Ramsey regularly next season as it’s not conducive to free flowing attacking play. No defensive shield will mean an exposed Vermaelen prone to hitting the panic button on occasion.

      3. We couldn’t give away most of the players you’ve named, let alone sell them. We could however get a decent fee for Vermaelen and use that money to bring in a centre back who’d be on a lower wage.

      1. Thank you for replying 🙂

        The Ajax reference was more to do with Mentality. It has been our our biggest weaknesses ever since we’ve been fielding a much younger squad. Last 2 years we have seen the average squad age go up and we can see clear benefits from it. Last year whenever we were in a spot, the 3 players I thought who never gave up were TV5, MA8 and RVP. In that order. They hate losing and you could see that. I want such guys in the team.

        I agree, the midfield mix might be more in favour of free flowing attacking football in August. A new DM or not, the panic button scenario is an alarming prospect.

        Point 3. is spot on. No arguments there. I’m bitter about selling 2nd choice, before 3rd choice, but that unfortunately is the practical thing to do. I know I should be more optimistic about it, than to think one in hand is better than 2 in the bush.

  20. Very interesting piece Jane and I must say, I agree with many of your points. A game against Barcelona at home when he charged out to win the ball saw the away side score two goals and I think Song was blamed.

    The thing is, for the sake of continuity, I really would not want another senior player leaving the club. But that is not enough reason to want him to stay if he really is a weak link. The issue is, or at least was the team defending for large parts of the season.

    Kosicleny (who I rate as one of the best in Europe) was not the only change defensively, we changed our approach as a team. We started the season with a similar approach and Vermaelen was a part of plenty good defensive displays.

    Before fully judging Thomas, I would like to see how he would perform in this current set up. With midfielders pressing the ball ahead of him, spaces between the midfield and defence not so huge, I think he could regain his best form.

    I have always wanted the Vermaelen / Koscielny partnership to succeed because I love the aggression and speed of those two but it hasn’t worked out. You really would expect a top level defender regardless of style to be able to adapt their game accordingly. Whether that be Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gallas etc

    Anyway I am going on a Titus Ramble now, so in short.. I agree but erm I disagree. Sort of.

    1. Yes, you make a lot of great points and I’m not for a minute suggesting that Vermaelen isn’t capable of a faultless display over 90 mins. Clearly, he has talent and when he maintains his concentration he has a lot to offer.

      I think what it boils down to is that I just don’t trust his footballing brain. Rather like Denilson in the DM role, he could do lots of things well but he just didn’t have the sat-nav or the spatial awareness to know where he should be at any given moment relative to the ball and the 21 other players. Certainly not instinctively. With Vermaelen I feel that this manifests itself at the moment of highest pressure and when his senses get overloaded, he panics and makes the same decision to press the ball, usually with disastrous consequences.

  21. Personally, I’m in the “one last try” category for Vermaelen. That said, he has 2 years left on his contract and his value is probably higher now so it’s a tricky one. I wouldn’t cry any tears if he left, I guess I have slightly more faith than Jane that he could beneift from a team that is more stable and takes its defensive duties more seriously as a team, which I don’t think it’s really done until now since Vermaelen arrived.

    But if I’m honest, I think my reluctance to sell Vermaelen just yet is borne of default. Djourou will almost certainly go too and I just don’t trust Arsenal to buy two centre halves in one summer and not have it take three and a half months and have it take a massive toll on buying other players in other areas of the squad that I think require more urgent attention. Not a glowing appraisal of Vermaelen, admittedly. But if we have to buy two centre halves, I don’t think we’ll get the depth in defensive midfield, the two strikers I think we need and the upgrade on Gervinho for one of the wide positions I think we need (Cazorla carries the creative burden on his own, as much as a striker, I think another creative player is a huge priority). and possibly the backup GK. I don’t think Arsenal will be able to do all of that in one summer.

    1. I agree, Tim, that it’s the most powerful argument in favour of retaining Vermaelen for one more season, at least. Squad balancing is a tricky form of alchemy and not something I really touched on in my blog. Over the last few seasons we’ve certainly veered towards instability, often through force majeur. When we are also likely to lose Djourou and Squillaci (three cheers) in the same window, I can see the argument for going with the continuity option, especially with a club captain committed to the cause.

      However, the last couple of months of the season has only reinforced my view of the primacy of the defence;. If we can manage the same rate of concession next season, that gives us a huge chance to compete with the very best, regardless of how much we strengthen in creative areas. I’m a child of Wenger (not literally, obviously) in that I’ve grown up watching his teams and all I’ve learnt about the game has come from watching his philosophy in action. I’ve loved every moment of it but years of frustration at our defensive ineptitude has left deep psychological scars. If you’d asked me during our years of Cesc-inspired tika-taka, would I have swapped some of the glorious, flowing creativity for just a smidgen of defensive nous, the answer would have been yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.

      I suppose what I’m saying is that I think with another striker and the Ox expected to play more of a role, combined with the rehabilitation of Jack into our new system, given the choice of a replacement for Gervinho or a reliable, solid, no-nonsense third choice centre-back who won’t set out eyes rolling whenever we see his name on the team-sheet, personally I would opt for the latter.

  22. I think if we could be a bit creative with the squad- a defensive midfielder that can play CB a la Song, or persuade Bacary Sagna to become a de facto centre half I’d be more inclined. Sagna’s performance against Sunderland gave great encouragement, but it’s actually easier to turn in that sort of defensive performance, when your backs are against the wall and the opposition are throwing the kitchen sink at you, than it is to play a high line at home to midtable opposition who will try to catch you on the counter attack and to be expected to be the first line of attack with the ball. We’ve yet to see if Sagna can do that as effectively.

    If Ashley Williams turns out to be a replacement for Vermaelen and we sign a defensively minded midfielder that can play centre half too, I would raise little or no objection to selling TV5. AW wouldn’t shy away from it either. In the summer of 2007, he sold Henry and bought Bacary Sagna and the team showed a huge improvement.

    1. Funnily enough, I was thinking along exactly the same lines when replying to you earlier. I couldn’t agree more that Sagna’s performance at the Stadium of Light was outstanding and I strongly suspect that if he is to extend his Arsenal career it will be because he’ll blossom at centre-back. I agree that playing the defensive rearguard action is in some ways easier that playing at home to mid-table opposition, but do you not feel that Sagna’s abilities would naturally suit this type of game, perhaps with his pace and mobility, better than the backs-to-the-wall stuff? Either way, you’re right to say we shan’t know until we see it, but in my opinion, it’s a risk worth taking.

      In terms of squad balance, moving Sagna inside would leave room for another full-back or perhaps a hybrid full-back/defensive midfielder. Someone like Yennaris, perhaps, whom I have extremely high hopes for, although whether he’s ready to step up yet or whether Wenger wants to recruit a top-quality international full-back to compete with Jenks is a different question.

  23. Great debate above, I think I side with young Mr Stillman above with keeping TV because of the need to strengthen over areas being of a hiher priority.
    ==
    Thanks for taking the time to respond above, Jane, we are definetly in agreement as to TV’s possible transition to a DM position. However, as much as I think Arteta should be the first name on the team sheet every week, it will be interesting to see if he can last a whole season next term. Ramsey has improved, but still has a way to go, love his effort though. As for Le Coq, to be brutaly honest, I don’t think he’ll be with us for too much longer, chances are few and far between for him and he has always stated a desire to play or he would seek pastures anew. This could be his time to say adieu. Meaning that this is also an area that needs reinforcements.

    Interesting debate about Sagna, he did indeed play like a hero at CB against Sunderland away, by far his standout performance of the season, however his pace and mobility are pretty shot, the concequence of a two time leg break taking it’s toll. I’d like him to be given another year regardless, as one of our most consistant performers over the year he has earned it, his experience is invaluble and it would also give Corporal Jenks time to be eased into the side rather then flung in at the deep end.

    Cheers.

    H2H,

  24. However error prone TV5 is,we cannot rule him out. I guess the Kos-Per partnership is that necessary knock in the head that he really needed to step-up his game. I believe he will be better when the season starts.
    Thank you and bye bye.

  25. Very well written piece and fair conclusion although undoubtedly the man has got calibre so I wonder if that could be accommodated…

    Playing him in defensive midfield could be an interesting option to look at. He’s robust, good header, likes the front foot as you say, and has goals. I think he’s at his best with barnstorming runs (think Newcastle a while back) and has got the combativeness and engine to be an effective defensive foil without the risk of his poorer positioning compromising our back line.

    Could be absolute rubbish but perhaps worth considering?

  26. I feel that TV was done in more by the captaincy thing than anything else. It was obvious that Arteta was behaving as a captain on field with the way he communicated and orchestrated, and it seemed TV, with a positive intention, was trying too hard to set a standard, make a statement and lead by example. Combine that with his natural instinct to go forward for the ball (and which left a largely immobile or confused partner behind him) and then add to that the fact that the team really wasnt playing as an all round defensive unit – and its a recipe for disaster.

    I still think if we can settle him mentally (maybe enroll him for meditation or yoga classes), and if he can sportingly accept the fact that Arteta really is the captain, then i feel there is still scope for a TV and Kos partnership. Per with Kos has served us good, but that doesnt mean there were no mistakes made in these last few matches. I feel the team was more focused on defending and not conceding – Ramsey’s work rate was shifted centrally (another indication of attack to defense focus shift), so we went from 1 DM-passer-pivot-superman arrangement, to more of a batman and robin midfield – which cut out the instances of Arteta running back (and he doesnt look very pretty doing that) and making professional fouls 10 yards from the edge of the box and in general cut out instances of attackers getting in between our DM and CBs, we went from a setup where Poldi (LW) and Santi (CF) werent really defending to putting Santi at LW, and got Rosicky in to use his defensive intelligence and general break-up play, also there were a fair share of good saves from both the keepers (an improvement from when Szczesny seemingly couldnt catch any long range shot), and even Theo was seen cleaning up in the box more than once. It was all a statement and sign of will.

    I am not great at tactics, but it could be that when this team eventually moves from the defensive approach to a more free flowing approach, we might have a job for TV to do. But we need to get him off the captaincy – some people just cannot handle it, and the sooner we can liberate them the better they will be able to focus on their job.

  27. Hi Jane

    I very much enjoyed reading your article and I think you have made many valid and insightful points. I’d like to acknowledge Little Dutch for linking me to this article through his recent piece for arseblog. Although you make a compelling case for TV5 to move on, I must disagree with you on this (for some of the reasons as mentioned by Little Dutch earlier, for example the loss of another experienced player and lack of replacements) and I think some of the criticisms made of him recently have been a little harsh. I would like to draw attention to some points made that I disagree with and add my opinion. I hope you manage to read this.

    1. Vermaelen as the defensive ‘weak link’

    As it is well known, defending is a responsibility of the team not just the defenders. There is a consensus that Arsenal’s mid-season slump in form and their recovery was due to the collective defensive mentality of the players. It is unfair to pin the defensive issues on the poor form of TV5 alone. However, this does not absolve him of responsibility and the exposition of his defensive deficiencies is well founded. There has been more variation this season with Arsenal’s defensive approach, sitting back and holding shape or high defensive lines and intense pressure. Indeed, approach has varied from game to game! With the example of the Chelsea home game, I do not believe TV5 was drafted in because of loyalty from Wenger but based on the belief that TV5 and Kos partnership is more mobile and suited a pressing defensive game. Gary Neville’s assessment of TV5 positional issues is a fair one but was also used as an example of a confused defensive approach. Spurs also had the same problem, they just punished us in that game and Arsenal didn’t punish them (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKm85q3t6bQ).

    2. Vermaelen as the “least natural captain”

    TV5 has obvious leadership qualities and previous experience as a captain from a young age. Before Arsenal, he had been captain of Ajax and captained his country at 24. He often leads by example with courageous displays and determined character. After Cesc left, many championed him as captain, ahead of Van Persie, citing him as a more natural leader. Fortunately, the armband doesn’t make a player completely immune to the drop if form and fitness dictates and there have been many examples of this season (Terry at Chelsea, Vidic at Man Utd, Phil Neville at Everton). In addition, one does not need to be vocal to be a captain. Gilberto Silva was a fine captain with a calming reassurance. Incidentally, I don’t think TV5 is mute either but admittedly my evidence of his vocal nature is more anecdotal.

    3. Lack of form for any player magnifies their deficiencies and Mertersacker and Koscielny are not exempt from this.

    Sometimes as football fans, we can have a short memory. Mert and Kos’ starts to their Arsenal careers began full of criticism. “Mertersacker is too slow, cannot handle the pace of the premier league, cannot bring the ball out from the back” they said. “Koscielny is not aggressive enough as a centre back and prone to costly individual errors” (remember the League cup final?). Thankfully, the Mert-Kos partnership has worked this season and their attributes compliment each other, sometimes inexplicably. Let us not forget though that Koscielny even suffered poor form earlier in the season even though we rightly sing his praises now. As an aside, I think Mertersacker is more of a ‘back foot’ player since he lack the quickness to nip in front of attackers and the mobility to recover should he lose out. He often retreats to the edge of the box and reads the game well and this, in my opinion, is what compliments Koscielny.

    Finally, it’s not too late for TV5 to amend his game and improve. If Koscienly has been able to improve then so can TV5, as they are the same age (Kos is in fact two-months older!). Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed your piece I just had to add my two-pence. I think I will be following more of your blog posts in the future!

  28. I have a lot of skepticism with the concept of getting rid of Vermaelen. Whilst he clearly has his problems, I think it’s highly unlikely we’ll get one (let alone two) new centre backs of greater quality than him who are happy to sit on the bench and be 3rd/4th choice for a team that has won nothing in 8 years (which is the sad reality of what we are). Realistically, Vermaelen could probably still go on to play for a top team, yet he has maintained his desire to stay and fight for us (a quality that is rare in the modern game). He knows this means he may barely play next season, which could be detrimental to his career and it’s for that reason I’d rather put faith in him than rely on a player who is ‘better’ that may or may not succeed in the premier league or may become restless being on the bench and create a rift in the squad. Very few top CBs will be happy to sit on any bench, let alone ours.

  29. Great comment Scholar. My sentiments exactly. Several players have had so much leeway (Walcot for years), yet we quickly pounce on Vermaelen when his form dips (especially with the different circumstances when he was playing) without the chance to redeem himself? Jane, I would like to read your response to The Scholar’s comments.

  30. What a brilliant read. kudos to Jane, I’ll certainly be looking up your own blog.

    I agree 100%. I’ve actually been saying the same since he signed for us after seeing his first half season. Vermaelen reminds me of a bull in a china shop when defending. His first instinct is to always attack the ball even if there is no way he can physically get there. He doesn’t seem to use common sense. When he can get there 1st, great. His problem is he doesn’t read when he can’t and drop back or hold up the attacker and a few times per game it puts him in no mans land.
    He also as you say panics under pressure.

    When he got injured for a year in his second season, some fans developed a sense of ‘God mode’ towards Vermaelen and as such built his reputation much a much better defender than he actually was.

    Maybe we don’t have to get rid though. He does have good attributes and energy levels, and his natural aggressive style can have its place. I’ve always liked the idea of trying him in midfield. Perhaps not as a DM as he’d still lack the awareness and discipline to do it. But why not as a box to box midfielder, more in Ramsey’s mould?

  31. Excellent analysis, Jane.

    I fully agree with the observations on TV’s flaws and their too frequent cost to the team. Until I read and considered this analysis I wouldn’t have agreed but I am fully convinced by your argument that it is best for all parties if he moves this summer despite his pledge to stay and fight for his place. Cold hard logic.

    More like this please, Jane and Dave.

  32. Assuming Arsenal get a good DM for next season, the difference between 1st and 3rd will be the difference between Vermaelen and Koscielny. You have a 4th place CB. Not just 4th place in finish but as in a different tier than teams fighting for the title.

    Koscielny worked down the stretch because scapegoating Vermaelen got a reaction for the team. He was benched for a Tottenham performance where he was absolutely good and paid the price for other players’ mistakes. He was literally caught red paint from other people’s errors all over his feet. Next year, when you’re trying to win, remember that Koscielny (who is likely to be solid) will be the reason why you won’t…and that’s with Julio Cesar (who will be the best GK in the league) replacing Szczęsny (who’s a great GK).

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