Okay so in the middle of some superb and personal Global Gooner pieces something from me. It is related to the proposed transfer of Thomas Vermaelen and it struck me as an idea yesterday and today’s headlines have oddly reinforced what I initially thought an off the wall notion.
Before I set out my thinking however I think it worth noting that since Vieira 4 captains of Arsenal have tried with their manager and team mates to lead Arsenal to a trophy. Ironic then that the one that ultimately succeeds and will go down in history as an FA Cup Winning skipper in reality did not lead us at all and played a mere bit part. Ah well perhaps history will be kind to TV5.
In truth as Jane Cavendish @Jcav90 set out so brilliantly at the end of the 2012/13 season on this site, Thomas Vermaelen had been found out. His early goal scoring heroics and swashbuckling style blinded us perhaps to his deficiencies as a defender. I will certainly admit to believing early on in his ability but his positional lapses became more and more apparent and sadly for him Koscielny just kept improving and Mertesacker in the second season found his Premiership legs. The truth is Vermaelen is a whole hearted Premiership level defender who all of us are quite happy to have as an understudy and CB or at LB but I doubt any of us truly believe that he will be first choice for Arsenal again in the near future.
This being the case we can hardly criticise him for wishing to try and move somewhere where he feels he will have a chance of playing regularly. The fact that he believes that will be the case at Manchester United is strange to me but we don’t know if Van Gaal sees something we are missing or what he has told him. Regardless,we all know he is absolutely our first reserve and really should lose no sleep about him playing for rivals and should surely not see this akin to the moves of RVP or Nasri. Indeed personally I find the whole prospect mildly comical.
What does concern me however is where it leaves our squad and who would be willing to come to Arsenal knowing that they are not a guaranteed starter but equally if at the right level? There is no doubt we need a defender of quality who could step in for Koz or BFG and be good enough to do so without the team being impacted. For me Vermaelen was not at that level but is there are player who is proven at Premiership and Champions League level who would coming knowing they are 3rd choice?
How about a player who has won 3 Premier League Titles in the last 6 years?
A player who in 165 appearances over 6 seasons at one of the world’s great clubs has only been in the losing team on 24 occasions?
A player therefore that has a win percentage from those 165 games of 68% ?
A player who in his biography, Sir Alex Ferguson said that United should build their future defence around.
A player who has played well over 20 games in the Champions League.
You may have guessed by now that the player I am suggesting is Jonny Evans.
When asked on twitter who I would replace Vermaelen with if he went to United I surprised myself by instantly responding by saying I would ask for Evans to come the other way. I said this without thinking about it deeply in any way and my first thought was Evans as I felt he was used to playing in a successful squad and fighting to be in the first choice pairing, but used to be 3rd choice.
As I began to look more deeply my conviction in my proposal grew and today’s suggestion by John Cross that we might look to take Smalling prompted this article. I don’t rate Chris Smalling, he has never moved beyond the potential stage for me and I am stunned he is in the England Squad. Closer research proved that despite investing £12 million in Smalling and £17 million in Phil Jones, neither has moved ahead of Evans in the pecking order at Old Trafford, or at least not under Ferguson. I think we can all agree that Fergie despite his judgement perhaps in future managers of United generally is a better judge of a footballer than most.
Assessing the playing statistics shows us clearly what Ferguson though of the Irishman but this recent article in the Belfast Telegraph questions whether Van Gaal will feel the same or want to stamp his own authority. Rumours are linking LVG to Matts Hummels as well as Vermaelen so Evans may or may not be given a chance to impress.
In 2008/9 Evan in his first season played 32 times for United and 17 on those appearances game in the Premier League where he helped United life the title for a third successive season. He topped his first full season off with a second honour of the Carling Cup and he was only 21.
As early as 2009/10 Evan at 21 was getting regular first team football at Old Trafford, probably the first players to come through the academy and do so since the Golden Generation. He played 30 times and finished the season at 22 with his thrid major honour as he was in the team that beat Villa in the Carling Cup Final.
In 2010/11 Evans began the season United first team as regular aged 22 partnering Vidic while Ferdinand was injured. In that season Evan appeared in the first team 20 times, 13 in the Premier League and was not on the losing side on one single occasion, his matches seeing 15 wins and 5 draws. At 23 he had his first title under his belt. In 2011/12 Evan again found himself again the first choice stand in for Vidic or Ferdinand ahead of both Smalling and Jones, both employed more often at right back of defensive Midfielder respectively. In that season Evans played as many United games as nearly anyone appearing 40 times and being on the winning team on 31 occasions. It was a season when United probably should have won the title again pipped on the final day by their local rivals, but Evan played in 2/3rds of the games at the centre of a defence that conceded only 33.
In 2012/13 Evan won his second title and I think this is the most telling season for me because by now Jones and Smalling, the big money buys were established and Ferguson had hailed Jones as potentially the best defender he had ever purchased. The reality demonstrated that when it truly counted though it was not Jones or indeed Smalling who he played when either of Vidic or Ferdinand were injured, it was again Jonny Evans, his Mr Reliable. In fact a quick look at the Premier League stats for the 5 recognised centre backs at Old Trafford tells its own story – Ferdinand 29, Evans 23, Vidic 19, Jones, 17 and Smalling 16. Some of course of the games by Jones and Smalling were not at CB but all 23 of those in which Evans played he was at the heart of the defence.
Jonny Evans at 26 would add to the British core at Arsenal, all of whom have the best years as players ahead of them. He is married with a first child on the way, works hard and is confident on the ball. His value is around £11 million, according to transfermarkt, which values him at or around the same level that united are willing to play for our skipper.
He is a proven winner with 2 Premier league titles to his name in 5 full seasons, valuable Champions League experience and crucially is very used to battling for game time with 2 established first choices and deputising with aplomb. I would suspect most of us would struggle to think of another Centre back that fits the bill quite so well give the circumstances.
He may not be the household or glamour name our fans seek but remember we are looking for quality back up not a superstar with this purchase. What is undoubtedly the case is that while stats ate not everything his numbers are very impressive and unlike the last centre back we mistakenly took from Old Trafford he is in his prime.
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